Back on Dec. 3, a game-tying shot fell short at the buzzer against the Rhode Island Rams to hand Princeton a two-point loss and bounce them from the top 25 rankings. Since that point, it’s been nothing but dominance from women’s basketball (15–3 overall, 5–0 Ivy League), and now they are back to No. 25 in both the AP and WBCA polls.
“Being ranked as one of the top 25 schools feels really good. We have been working,” star sophomore guard Madison St. Rose wrote to The Daily Princetonian.
“I believe the main reason as to why we [have] been so successful so far is because of our practices. We are constantly trying to push each other every single day so that when it comes to playing against different teams, we feel confident about the game plan,” she added, on the Tiger’s success.
Since the loss, the Tigers have been on a ten-game win streak where the outcome has been rarely in doubt. They closed out five non-conference games with wins over the likes of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and Villanova Wildcats, and are a perfect 5–0 to kick off Ivy play. They’ve dominated the Ivy, winning by an average of 28.0 points and establishing them as the new heavy favorite to win the conference.
The Tigers also needed just 28 points to earn their place in the AP rankings this time around — in November, they needed all of 58 points for the No. 25 spot.
This is likely due to the fact that AP voters tend to vote for more established programs, like Princeton, at the beginning of the season, since many of the lesser-known suspects still haven’t had the chance to prove themselves against top competition.
As the season progresses, the year’s overachievers prove themselves worthy of AP votes and receive them accordingly, taking what would have been votes for the Tigers earlier in the season as a result.
Some notable games from the Tiger’s hot streak include a comeback 80–65 win over the Columbia Lions to seize the outright Ivy lead and a dominant 79–38 victory over the Cornell Big Red to open Ivy League play. The Princeton Women’s “Get Stops” mantra has been evident in their performance, holding opponents under 50 points in four of their last five games.
Leading the way for the Tigers has been St. Rose averaging 15.9 points and senior guard Kaitlyn Chen with 14.9 points per game on the season. Senior forward Ellie Mitchell has been a defensive anchor with 10.7 rebounds per game as well.
The wins have also led to multiple honors for Princeton. Head coach Carla Berube was recently named to the watchlist for the Kathy Delaney-Smith Mid-Major Coach of the Year. Mitchell and Chen have both picked up an Ivy Player of the Week award this academic year, while first-year guard Skye Belker has won Ivy Rookie of the Week three times.
The solid start bodes well for Princeton, who have been known to close out the season tremendously well. Their current win streak is the longest since they had a 15-game win streak during the NCAA Tournament last season after downing the NC State Wolfpack in the first round as an 11 seed. If they were to pick up another March Madness win this year, it would mark three straight seasons with a second-round appearance, a feat not accomplished by any Ivy League basketball team in recent history.
As Princeton looks to carry their strong play through the remainder of Ivy play, March continues to grow closer. ESPN’s bracketology puts the Tigers as a 10 seed and rising in their latest projections for the NCAA Tournament, which would land them in March Madness even without winning the Ivy tournament.
“Our mentality heading into the rest of the season is to play every game as if it were a championship,” St. Rose wrote to the ‘Prince.’ “In order for us to pursue our big goals of being Ivy League Champs and playing in the March Madness Tournament, we need to make sure we take each opponent seriously, no matter what their ranking in the conference is,” she added.
Princeton will be the favorite by far in their ranked re-debut against the Yale Bulldogs (4–14 overall, 1–4 Ivy League) Friday at 7 p.m. in Jadwin Gymnasium.
Tate Hutchins is an associate Sports editor for the ‘Prince.’
Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.