Going undefeated for an entire conference season in any sport is nearly impossible. But in Ivy League women's basketball, doing so in back-to-back seasons is entirely unprecedented.
On Sunday, March 6, the women's basketball team (22–4 overall, 14–0 Ivy League) secured their 40th straight Ivy League victory. The Tigers defeated Harvard (13–13, 7–7) with a final score of 73–53 to clinch their second consecutive undefeated conference season, the first time any team has done so in Ivy League history. The achievement comes on a particularly special year for Princeton, as it celebrates its 50th year of women's athletics and women's basketball at the University.
The contest against the Harvard squad came just as many other Tiger victories have this season: grabbing an early lead off of three-pointers from senior guard Abby Meyers and aggressive takes to the basket from sophomore guard Kaitlyn Chen and junior guard Grace Stone. The Tigers jumped to an early 9–2 lead. Rebounding from Harvard guards Harmoni Turner and Tess Sussman created extra opportunities for the Crimson, leading them on a 6–0 run with 5:01 left in the first quarter. But Stone was able to slow their momentum with a decisive three-pointer off an assist from Meyers.
The score sat at 20–15 in favor of Princeton entering the second quarter, and junior guard Maggie Connolly was quick to push the lead ahead with a quick three-pointer in the opening seconds of the quarter. Her basket was followed by a nimble pass to Mitchell under the basket, creating the Tigers’ first double digit lead of the game at 25–15. Mitchell’s defensive rebounding prevented extra scoring chances for the Crimson, who couldn't seem to get shots to fall as the Tigers continued to expand their lead to 31–15 with 7:06 remaining in the half.
After a tough stretch of missed shots and fouls for both teams, Harvard guards McKenzie Forbes and Lola Mullaney ended the Crimson’s scoring drought with back-to-back quick jump shots, bringing them within 12 of the Tigers. For Princeton, Chen sank a jumper of her own after the Tigers were unable to for almost five minutes. Though a deep three-pointer from Harvard guard Maggie McCarthy brought the Crimson within 13, Chen responded quickly and efficiently with a signature acrobatic take to the basket, putting the score at 37–22.
By this point, Princeton had pulled far ahead of the Crimson. Mitchell’s defensive efforts, including two steals and 12 rebounds, while only logging three personal fouls helped keep Harvard’s three-point shooting at bay. It is no surprise that Mitchell was named Ivy League Defensive player of the year. In addition to a strong defense, the team’s consistent shot contests at the three point line proved fatal for the Crimson.
By the fourth quarter, the Tigers had pushed their lead to 60–42, as free throws from Meyers, Chen, and Cunningham logged consistent points off of Harvard fouls. With two minutes left in play, the score sat at 70–46, and the Princeton bench entered the game to claim the team’s 14th conference win of the season. A clean jumper from junior guard-forward Lexi Weger ended the game, and the Tigers’ regular season, with a final score of 73–53.
The win continued Princeton’s historic conference winning streak, which is now 40 games long, and continues to be the longest in Ivy League history.
On Friday, March 11, they will face Harvard for the third time this season in their first round of the Ivy League Tournament.
Isabel Rodrigues is a guest contributor to the Sports section of the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @isabelinspace.