Senior forwards Bella Alarie and Taylor Baur have participated in many consequential games against Penn during their time at Princeton, including each of the past three Ivy League tournament championships.
For rookie head coach Carla Berube, on the other hand, Saturday’s game was the first taste of both Ivy League play and the Penn-Princeton rivalry. Fortunately for Berube, she was able to rely on the seniors, who had plenty of valuable experience.
Baur and Alarie, playing for the final time in the Palestra, helped Princeton (13–1, 1–0 Ivy) begin the 2020 edition of the rivalry on a successful note. Both recorded double-doubles — 25 points and 11 rebounds for Alarie, 15 points and 13 rebounds for Baur — as Princeton raced past Penn (10–2, 0–1) to open Ivy League play with a 75–55 win.
“[The seniors] have been helping me since I stepped on the Princeton campus,” Berube said. “Both Taylor and Bella have been extremely significant in the transition. We talked about this being Penn-Princeton a little bit, but we also said this was just another game on our schedule, and if you make it out to be too big, then your emotions can get the best of you.”
“[The coaches] don’t know yet how deep the rivalry goes, and how important these games are to us,” Alarie said. “A big thing was just trying to stay composed … they kept us calm but excited about this game.”
Berube also relied on her seniors to dominate the offensive glass, with both Alarie and Baur pulling down five offensive rebounds. Princeton out-rebounded Penn 44–25, and the Tigers had 25 second-chance points off 17 offensive rebounds, compared to nine off six offensive rebounds for Penn.
“We tried to be as relentless as possible and just go after everything,” Alarie said. “We weren’t going to hit everything, we’re at an away gym, [so] you have to attack the boards.”
The game was fairly evenly matched through 20 minutes. Princeton took a 10–2 lead to start the game, but Penn quickly responded. Princeton went to halftime with a narrow 33–30 lead.
In the third quarter, however, the Tigers started to take over. Princeton began the quarter on an extended 18–4 run, with nine of those points coming from Alarie. The Tigers allowed just 12 points in the quarter and entered the fourth leading 54–42. In the final quarter, 10 points from sophomore guard Abby Meyers helped Princeton extend the lead, and the Tigers coasted to the 20-point win.
Princeton had to survive an impressive performance from Penn first-year guard Kayla Padilla, who scored 27 points on 10–14 shooting. Seventeen of those points came in the first half, as Princeton did a better job containing her in the second.
“She’s going to be a lot of fun to go against the next four years,” Berube said about Padilla. “I thought we did a much better job [in the second half], all five of us, recognizing where she is and being better help [to] defenders.”
Princeton will now have a three-week break for finals before resuming play Friday, Jan. 31 at Dartmouth.