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Women’s basketball suffers loss to Villanova, 69–59

<h5>Sophomore forward Paige Morton scored eight points in the third quarter to help bring the Tigers back within single-digits.</h5>
<h6><a href="https://twitter.com/PrincetonWBB/status/1591269822721314816?s=20&amp;t=AR47ApB9HlNmW5ZUY7bsnQ" target="_self">Courtesy of @PrincetonWBB/Twitter.</a></h6>
Sophomore forward Paige Morton scored eight points in the third quarter to help bring the Tigers back within single-digits.
Courtesy of @PrincetonWBB/Twitter.

On Friday night, Princeton women’s basketball (1–1 overall, 0–0 Ivy League) dropped a 69–59 loss to Villanova (2–0, 0–0 Big East) in front of the home crowd at Jadwin Gymnasium. The Tigers had a narrow one-point lead by the end of the first quarter but were out-scored 21–9 in the second, making for quite the uphill battle.

Even as senior guard Grace Stone posted a career-high four three-pointers to keep the Tigers in the game, a dominant 32-point, 13-rebound performance from Villanova senior forward Maddy Siegrist helped the Wildcats come away with the win. The loss breaks a 16-game regular season win streak for the Tigers, which began last season.

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Two early fouls by sophomore center Paige Morton pushed the Tigers to substitute her and play a shorter lineup through the first half, giving Villanova the opportunity to take advantage. Going into halftime, the Wildcats were shooting 56 percent from the field compared to Princeton’s 34.5 percent. Stone was the lone Tiger with more than five points by the end of the first half, while Villanova’s Siegrist and guard Lucy Olsen sat at 17 and 12 points, respectively.

To say Stone’s three-point shooting was critical to keeping the Tigers alive through the first half would be an understatement — Stone’s four straight buckets from beyond the arc made up 40 percent of the Tigers’ first-half scoring.

“It was awesome,” Head Coach Carla Berube told The Daily Princetonian after the game. “[Stone] is capable of doing that. We have a lot of different scorers and it was her night behind the arc.”

Despite Stone’s first quarter heroics, however, the second quarter proved much tougher. The Tigers made just three of 15 attempts from the field and allowed the Wildcats to go on a 10–3 run to take over the lead.

By the third quarter however, Morton returned to the court and quickly found success in the post. Morton would go on to score eight points in the quarter and help the Tigers cut the lead to single digits. Then, a scoring resurgence from senior guard Julia Cunningham and junior point guard Kaitlyn Chen, who had scored a combined 10 points in the first half, propelled Princeton into a one-point lead in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter.

“I think we did a lot better in the second half,” junior forward Ellie Mitchell told the ‘Prince.’ “We came together and communicated more, [Siegrist] just made a lot of tough shots. [This is] gonna be a great learning experience.”

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Still, the momentum the Tigers had built heading into the fourth quarter wasn’t enough to quell Siegrist and the Wildcats. The two teams passed the lead back and forth through the first eight minutes of the fourth, but Siegrist scored five straight points on heavily contested, mid-range jump-shots to propel Villanova ahead.

“[We were] just trying to make her work as hard as she can,” Berube said of Siegrest after the game. “And she certainly worked really, really hard to get her shots and credit to her.”

In the final minute of action, the Tigers missed two critical three-point attempts that would've brought them back within striking distance. Villanova cashed in at the free throw line to seal the 10-point Tiger loss.

“We always rely on our defense and getting stops,” Berube noted. “It just seemed like they came up with some just really big, tough shots.”

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Cunningham led the Tigers with 18 points on 6-for-19 shooting from the field (4–9 3pt.), six rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. Stone notched 17 points on 5-for-8 shooting and a career-high four three-pointers. Morton rounded out the Tigers' three scorers in double-digits with 10 points on 5-for-8 shooting and five rebounds. Mitchell played the full 40 minutes, but was scoreless in the loss, even as she hauled in 13 rebounds and five assists.

“Today was tough. Shots weren’t falling, but I just like to rebound,” Mitchell said, referring to her performance. “It helps in the short term if I can get a stop on defense, get a rebound, or help in other smaller ways. It’s always something to fall back on.”

There were plenty of lessons to learn from this early season loss, especially as the Tigers continue to figure out their go-to rotations in the post-Abby-Meyers era. Even with a loss, all of the experimentation we see now will be critical if the Tigers are to go after another undefeated Ivy League season.

“I trust my players and have confidence that they’ll bounce back from this,” Berube said. “This is not a defining game.”

Another tough Big East matchup against 2022 WNIT standout Seton Hall (2–0, 0–0 Big East) awaits the Tigers on Monday night for their first away game of the season. The game will be available to stream on ESPN+ with tip-off at 7 p.m.

Isabel Rodrigues is a staff writer for the Sports section at the ‘Prince’ who typically covers women’s basketball. Please direct any corrections requests to corrections at dailyprincetonian.com.

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