As basketball season inches closer to its conclusion, the Tigers continue to find ways to win and now have an inside track at the Ivy League regular season title and the top seed in the league’s inaugural postseason tournament. Princeton once again swept a weekend double header against Ivy League foes, beating Yale and Brown to win its seventh straight game and fourth on the road. This, combined with a Penn loss to Yale on Saturday, gives the Tigers (7-2) control over their own destiny for the first time this season.
Princeton started off the weekend Friday night against the Yale Bulldogs at the John J. Lee Amphitheater in New Haven. Looking to win a third straight road game, the Tigers started off the night strong and never looked back. Princeton used early runs of 7-0 and 11-2 to keep the Bulldogs at bay and dominated the fourth quarter to walk away with a 69-47 win. The Tigers used the same tactics that have been working all season, with pressure on the glass and offensive efficiency, to silence the home crowd and prevent Yale from having a chance to gain ground. Princeton held the Bulldogs to only 30 percent shooting for the entire game and 20 percent from beyond the arc. Twice, the Bulldogs failed to score 10 points in a quarter. Meanwhile, Princeton used an efficient 43 percent field goal rate to earn the win despite shooting only 42 percent from the charity stripe.
Four Tigers scored in double digits during the Yale game. Senior Taylor Brown paired her 13 points with a team high of five assists, a third of the Tigers' 15 total assists. Freshman Bella Alarie added three steals and two blocks to her 13 points as she once again received honors for Ivy League rookie of the week, her eight time receiving the award this season. Sophomore Sydney Jordan had 11 points and six of the Tigers’ 45 rebounds on the night. Finally, freshman Tia Weledji added 10 points and shot perfect from beyond the 3-point line.
Princeton forced Yale into 19 total turnovers, including 12 steals. The quality defense was apparent in the game, and the Tigers looked to carry it forward into Saturday’s matchup against Brown. The Bears came into Saturday leading the Ivy League in team offense by a wide margin and were the only team all season to score more than 70 points against the Tigers. Earlier this year, the Tigers defense was pushed around and the offense could not overcome the massive firepower from Brown in their 98-88 loss at Jadwin.
On Saturday, Princeton gave up more than 70 points again versus the Bears. This time, the defense did enough to stymie the offensive barrage, while the Tiger offense carried them to an 81-75 victory. The key to the game came in the third quarter, when the Tigers held Brown to only 11 points, while using their own offense to build a commanding lead. From there, clutch shots down the stretch, including a layup and one by Jordan and free throws by sophomore Gabrielle Rush, kept the Bears at bay and gave Princeton a critical in-conference win.
Princeton shot a season best 54 percent from beyond the arc in the victory, and just like on Friday, four players scored in double digits: Robinson, Brown, Alarie, and Rush. Alarie also earned her fifth double double of the season. The Tigers dominated the glass, something they did not do well in the first meeting, outrebounding the Bears 44-33. The Tigers also cooled the scorching offense of the Bears, holding them to only 39 percent shooting for the game. They also stole the ball 13 times against Brown, as senior Vanessa Smith led the way with four steals of her own. A complete turnaround from the first meeting, the Tigers proved against Brown they have learned from their mistakes and continue to improve.
Later that afternoon, the Tigers caught a break in the standings as Yale upended the league-leading Pennsylvania Quakers. Penn (8-1) leads Princeton by only one game. The showdown between Penn and Princeton will come on the last day of the season, March 7, in Philadelphia. However, before then, the Tigers still have other critical conference games to play. Up next is another weekend double header against Columbia and Cornell. The Tigers defeated both opponents at the start of their road trip last week by scores of 62-52 and 58-54, respectively. Saturday’s clash against Cornell, in which the Tigers will look to win their eighteenth in a row against the Big Red, will be the final home game of the season and senior night as well.
As the path to the Palestra becomes clearer, the Tigers are hoping that through their continued success, the road to a conference title, a tournament title, and a place in the Big Dance this March runs through them.