In a battle for first place in the Ivy League, women’s basketball (14–3 overall, 4–0 Ivy League) defeated the Columbia Lions (12-5 overall, 3-1 Ivy League) 80–65 on Saturday afternoon, snapping the Lions’ 10 game win streak in the process.
Though the final score may suggest otherwise, it was anyone’s game for the majority of the contest.
The first half was a shootout. Both teams found their rhythm early on and shot well from the field, but neither Princeton nor Columbia was able to pull away.
First-year guard Skye Belker had the hot hand to start for the Tigers, shooting 2–2 from three and adding eight total points in the first quarter alone. Her play earned her Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors. The two teams traded baskets, but the Tigers held a slight lead up until there were two minutes left in the second quarter when the Lions strung together threes and a quick layup to put themselves up by four to start the second half.
After such a hot shooting quarter from Columbia, during which the team connected on nine of their eleven field goal attempts, the Tigers knew they had to adjust at the half to remain undefeated in Ivy League play.
“It was different coming into the second half, knowing that we needed to pick up earlier [on defense] and find their shooters so we could match up and not allow those open threes,” said senior guard Chet Nweke to The Daily Princetonian, during the postgame press conference.
“We came into the locker room and we just knew that we needed to do a better job of finding people in transition, finding [Abbey] Hsu, finding shooters, [and] just matching up better,” she added.
With getting stops on their mind throughout the second half, the Tigers were able to hold Columbia’s field goal percentage to 35 percent and a mere 20 percent from beyond the arc for the rest of the game — a feat after a first half where the Lions shot 60.86 percent from the field and made twice as many threes.
Coming into the game, the Tigers knew they would have to keep a close watch on senior guard Abbey Hsu — the Ivy League’s leading scorer. Sophomore guard Madison St. Rose said that their goal was to “keep Abbey off her rhythm” and to “make her take tough shots.” Princeton did just that, forcing Hsu to have a tougher shooting night than usual, shooting only 8–22 (36 percent) from the field.
Riding their defense and hot third quarter shooting, the Tigers regained the lead with five minutes left in the quarter and held onto it for the rest of the game. The Tigers shot a blistering 20–28 from the field in the second half which enabled them to secure the game by a larger margin than many had anticipated.
Second-chance points, like defense and shooting, were key in this matchup. Compared to Columbia's three second-chance points, Princeton totaled 16 — thanks in large part to the hard work down low of senior forward and reigning Ivy League defensive player of the year, Ellie Mitchell. Named player of the game on Saturday, Mitchell not only grabbed her 1,000th career rebound but also had a double-double, with 14 points and 15 rebounds. As a result of this performance, she received the Ivy League Player of Week award.
Other notable Princeton players during Saturday’s matchup include St. Rose, who ended the game with 21 points, six rebounds, and three steals. Another standout was Belker, who finished with 21 points, and Nweke, who earned her first career start on Saturday and came up big in the clutch, contributing nine points and six rebounds.
The Tigers will be back at Jadwin Gymnasium on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 2 p.m. to face off with the Cornell Big Red (6–10, 0–4) in defense of their place atop the Ivy League standings.
Allison Ha is a senior writer for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’
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