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Kaitlyn Chen’s career-high 31 points carry women's basketball to win over Villanova

Player in orange and black dribbles basketball through two defenders in blue and white.
Senior guard Kaitlyn Chen drives between two Villanova defenders.
Photo courtesy of @PrincetonWBB/X.

Senior guard Kaitlyn Chen just could not stop scoring against Villanova (6–4 overall, 0–0 Big East), ending the Dec. 11 away game with a career-high 31 points and rallying the Tigers (8–3 overall, 0–0 Ivy League) to victory. Princeton battled back and forth against the Wildcats to grab the win in a chaotic last minute of play.

After a made free throw from senior guard Chet Nweke, Princeton led the game, 59–56, with just 12 seconds left. As the time ticked down, a foul on sophomore guard Madison St. Rose allowed Villanova to cut the lead to one at the free throw line. 


A Princeton timeout with two seconds to go, and then a foul on Villanova sealed the victory for the Orange and Black, as first-year guard Skye Belker made the ensuing free throws. The Tigers ended the night up by three and came out with a well deserved victory.

“The win over Nova feels great,” senior forward Ellie Mitchell told The Daily Princetonian. “It was a gritty win and took the full forty minutes. I think as a team we worked really well to execute our game plan, and a big piece of that was using our stops on defense to fuel our offense.”

“Kaitlyn [Chen] was incredible,” Mitchell added. “She was the best player on the court, and she played with so much confidence and poise. She might not be putting up 31 in every game, but everyday in practice we see her dominating offensively like she did last night.”

Indeed, this was the most points Chen had scored ever in a game, and the last time she scored 30 or more was March 12, 2022, when she scored 30 against Columbia. The last time any Tiger scored 31 points was on March 9, 2019, when Bella Alarie ’20 scored 31 against Yale. 

Villanova entered the game off of a loss to Saint Joseph’s (9–1 overall, 0–0 Atlantic 10), but eager to get another win. The Wildcats’ best player, Lucy Olsen, is the third highest scorer in the nation, averaging 24.9 points per game, and thus, Princeton needed to guard her closely after she scored 32 points against St Joe’s.


“We knew that Olsen wasn’t just gonna be a one person responsibility since they play four guards,” Mitchell told the ‘Prince.’ “So, we were gonna be switching a lot, so we all had to know each player really well and be ready to contain whoever we got switched onto.”

“It was also a really big emphasis for us to win the rebounding battle, especially to keep their five off the glass,” Mitchell added.

The game plan was executed well, and Mitchell led the way with 19 rebounds of her own. The entire team had 44 rebounds overall, beating Villanova’s total of 30. Mitchell leads the team by far in rebounds. She also holds single-season program records for the two highest rebound totals with 338 last season and 311 in the 2021–22 season.

“My thoughts on Ellie never change,” Chen said to the ‘Prince’ about Mitchell. “She is the most consistent player on our team and does all the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheets besides obviously her 19 rebounds.”

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The game started off well for Princeton, as they earned nine of the first 11 points in the contest. An 8–0 run by the Wildcats brought them ahead, however, to 12–11 with 4:44 left in the first quarter. Villanova continued to dominate the quarter with a 10–5 run and ended the quarter up six points.

After a Villanova layup to open the scoring in the second quarter, Princeton went on their own 10–0 run with St. Rose scoring seven of these points and Belker getting the rest from a big three pointer. 

Princeton didn’t hold onto this lead for long, and two jumpers and layups brought the Wildcats ahead by six once again. The teams traded more points with two layups coming from Chen as she ended the half in the double digits, but the Tigers were behind 35–30 at the end of the second quarter.

“I think we were all extremely locked in,” Chen told the ‘Prince’ about the team’s mentality. “We felt prepared for the game today. We were confident we could win, but knew they are a very good team, and we would have to play well together to win the game,” she continued.

In the second half, Chen started the Tigers off strong with a triple and a jumper to level the score. It was certainly a high-level quarter for both Chen and Belker, who combined for all of Princeton’s 17 points.

Of those 17 points, Chen scored 10 points and Belker scored seven. This was enough for Princeton to end the quarter tied 47–47 with Villanova and everything to play for as the last quarter kicked off.

The Wildcats took a five point lead with 6:45 left on the clock, but five important points by Chen in the form of a three pointer and a jumper tied the game once more. Villanova later took the lead again, but Chen’s jumper and free throw gave Princeton the 57–56 lead with 2:01 left, which they would hold for the rest of the game. 

The closeness of this game was reflected by 12 lead changes, and no team opening a double digit lead at any point in the game. Furthermore, the second half saw no team lead by more than five as both kept within close distance of each other.

Mitchell offered some insight, too, into the Tiger’s strategy against their opponents.

“I knew that Villanova wasn’t gonna have a strong defensive rebounding presence, so I needed to be aggressive and take advantage of that,” Mitchell told the ‘Prince.’ “My teammates did a really great job looking for good scoring opportunities, and with the defenders so consumed with guarding them, it definitely helped me crash the glass more easily,” she continued.

“On the defensive end, my teammates again were playing tough defense and forcing [Villanova] to take hard shots which again made it easier for me to rebound,” Mitchell added.

She also credited Chen’s defensive prowess as being important to the team’s success, on top of Chen’s impressive 31 points for the night.

“For a large majority of the game, she was matched up on their best player, Olsen, and made it really hard for Olsen to get a lot of the looks like she usually does,” Mitchell said to the ‘Prince’ about Chen.

After a very successful game, the Tigers went on to face Rutgers (6–7 overall, 0–1 Big Ten) at Jadwin Gymnasium on Wednesday evening. In this New Jersey rivalry, Princeton sought to continue their strong form over the last two matches to get another victory, and they did so in a 66–55 home win.

“We’re excited about our game Wednesday,” Chen said to the ‘Prince’ prior to the Wednesday matchup. “We’re looking to build off this game and continue to get better everyday.”

Alex Beverton-Smith is a staff writer for the Sports section of the ‘Prince.’

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