Before the 2019-20 season, No. 21 Princeton women’s basketball set lofty goals — winning the Ivy League title, advancing to the NCAA tournament, and winning a game, or more, once they got there.
They also talked about how they planned to achieve those goals, with new head coach Carla Berube emphasizing winning games with a stifling defense that would shut opponents down and create offensive-end opportunities for Princeton.
Twenty-five games in, the team has remained true to its word. The Tigers (24–1, 12–0 Ivy) used dominant defensive performances to beat Brown and Yale this weekend and secure the regular season Ivy League title.
“This was something we put in our goals, to win the Ivy League championship,” Berube said. “They worked every single day since we started workouts in September, and I’m really excited for them.”
For senior forwards Bella Alarie and Taylor Baur, both of whom were honored before Saturday evening’s game against Yale during Senior Day festivities, the trophy represented the third time the duo finished atop the Ivy standings during their four years at Princeton.
“It’s really special, especially as a senior,” Alarie said. “You give so much to the program, so you want to succeed and leave a legacy behind.”
Friday evening’s game against Brown was effectively over shortly after it started. Princeton scored the first 14 points of the game — more than Brown would score the entire first half. The Tigers took a 37–12 lead into halftime and cruised to a 81–39 win.
“We had really active hands, people were getting touches on the ball which led to steals,” Alarie said. “When we’re all connected as a defensive unit, and our help is there, and we’re being as active as possible, I think it makes it really hard for the other team to score.”
At that point, Princeton had clinched at least a share of the Ivy League title with its 11th conference win. But after Yale held on later that night to hand Penn its fourth conference loss, the Tigers were guaranteed to win the title outright.
Saturday’s game against Yale started much less smoothly for the newly-crowned Ivy League champs. It took Princeton nearly six minutes to make its first field goal, and Yale started the game on a 10–1 run. But just like the previous time the teams met, in which Princeton overcame a 12–0 deficit to win by 16, the Tigers bounced back quickly.
Princeton managed to cut the deficit to 16–14 by the end of the first quarter and held Yale to just 3 points in the second quarter to take a 27–19 lead into halftime. For the second time this weekend, the Tigers’ top-ranked scoring defense held their opponent to under 50 points, and Princeton won 64–49 before receiving the Ivy League trophy at midcourt.
Alarie led Princeton in scoring against Yale with 19 points, putting her three shy of matching the Princeton all-time scoring record, held by Sandi Bittler ‘90.
Through 25 games, the team boasts one of the most impressive resumes in school history. They currently have the 10th best RPI in the country and were predicted to receive a No. 6 seed in the latest installment of ESPN Bracketology, which would be even higher than the No. 8 seed received by the undefeated 2014-15 team.
But with two regular season games, the Ivy League tournament, and the NCAA tournament looming, the triumphant Tigers still have their work cut out for them.