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No. 25 women’s basketball dominates weekend showdowns, Saturday game sees record turnout

Women in white basketball jerseys cheering on their teammates from the curtsied bench.
The Tigers are undefeated at home and have won 12 games in a row ahead of their rivalry matchup at Penn next weekend.
Courtesy of @PrincetonWBB/X

Continuing their cruise through the Ivy League slate of play, the No. 25 Princeton women’s basketball (17–3 overall, 7–0 Ivy League) team defeated both Yale (5–15, 2–5) and Brown (13–7,  4–3) on Friday and Saturday, respectively, maintaining a one game lead for first place in the Ivy League. Saturday’s game drew in a crowd of 2,710 — the largest since 2013.

Women’s basketball overcomes first-half challenge from Yale, soars to 79-59 victory

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Battling back-and-forth with Yale in the first quarter, the Tigers headed into the first media timeout trailing 11–10 after a Jenna Clark jumper gave the Bulldogs the lead. However, Princeton emerged from the break with a renewed sense of energy, as junior forward Parker Hill, senior guard Kaitlyn Chen, and first-year guard Ashley Chea drove the Tigers on a 7–0 run to bring the score to 17–11 with 2:40 to go in the first.

Unlike many of the Tigers’ easily vanquished foes thus far, Yale held strong, as that 17–11 lead turned out to be the largest of the first half. While Yale never took the lead, the score stayed within a couple points during all of the second quarter. Junior Paige Morton sank a free throw with 23 seconds left to bring the score to 35–30, where it stayed until the buzzer rang in halftime.

While recency bias would suggest the Tigers have been blowing out every opponent on their schedule, this first half turned out to be almost exactly the average score of a Princeton game this season. The Tigers rank tied at 47 nationally in scoring defense, with an average of 57.8 points per game allowed as of Sunday and have been scoring 70.6 apiece to complement their defense.

Opening the third quarter on a 4–0 run to bring the lead to a more comfortable nine points, the Tigers’ resurgence was just getting started. With 4:45 left in the third quarter, Head Coach Carla Berube’s half-time talk paid off, as the Tigers went on a 10–0 run. Baskets from Chen, Hill, and first-years Chea and Skye Belker brought the Tigers’ lead to 21 and the score to 64–43 with less than a minute to go in the third.

This commanding stretch of play, which took place over four minutes of game time, sealed the result. A low-scoring fourth quarter proceeded relatively without incident, leading to a 79–59 victory for Princeton as the last seconds ticked away. The Tigers’ defense paved the way to victory, a common trend for this Princeton team.

“We all have super high expectations for our defense since we play for a defensive coach, so we just have that mentality where we just all don’t want to get scored on because if we do, then we know we’re doing something wrong,” senior guard Chet Nweke remarked to The Daily Princetonian.

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On the other side of the court, Chen, the 2023 Ivy League Player of the Year, paced the Tigers in scoring with 27 points on the day, in addition to four rebounds and five assists.

Tigers dominate Bears to finish the weekend sweep

Riding the momentum from the previous night’s win, the Tigers wasted no time gaining a lead early, taking a 12–7 lead before the first media timeout. Right out of the timeout, Brown immediately came within fighting distance again, bringing the score to 12–10 after a three-pointer from guard Isabella Mauricio.

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Unlike Yale last night, the Bears weren’t able to continue to answer the Tigers, as Princeton immediately surged to a commanding lead. Led by Nweke’s seven points and clutch defense during the ensuing run, the Tigers outscored Brown 17–2 over roughly seven minutes of game time to take a commanding 29–12 lead. Nweke — who joined the starting lineup very recently — had her second strong performance of the weekend, scoring 18 in this game along with seven rebounds.

“I feel like I can just attribute this [recent success] to the confidence that my coaches and teammates have in me, and this allows me to be at my best offensively and defensively,” Nweke told the ‘Prince.’

“I’ve definitely had my fair share of struggles with confidence since being here, so it is just really nice to hear that my teammates and coaches have faith in me, which they remind me of a lot.”

Largely due to their three-point shooting prowess, Brown stopped the bleeding there, keeping the lead in the teens for the rest of the second quarter, as Princeton headed into the half with a 40–26 lead.

While the teams gathered to discuss strategy at halftime, the record crowd enjoyed a unique spectacle, the Baby Race. Featuring five competitors, Mox Martin bolted out to a quick lead. While he lost steam towards the end, many babies never left their parents’ arms at the starting line. Encouraged by his sister, Martin eventually crawled his way across the finish line surrounded by cheers from his family and the audience.

Returning to basketball action in the second half, Brown refused to back down, holding their own against Princeton’s defense. Although Brown matched serve, they only once were able to cut the lead below 10 once, when they trailed 42–33 with just under eight minutes to go in the third quarter. Just as in the first half, three-point shooting was Brown’s X factor, as the Bears shot 11–23 overall from beyond the arc throughout the game.

Handling the Brown counterattack in the third, and led by Belker’s nine points in the fourth quarter alone, the Tigers were able to fight to a victory by a score of 76–63, continuing their undefeated start in Ivy League play. Nweke and sophomore guard Madison St. Rose paced the team in scoring with 18 points each. For Nweke, the 18 points were a career high.

“I feel happy, but most importantly I feel really lucky to be playing basketball and winning a lot with all my friends,” Nweke added.

“I don’t think we’ve had that many fans at a game in my 4 years here,” Nweke added. “I think it just goes to show that we’re doing something really special here at Princeton and it’s nice to see that other people want to be a part of it too.”

Up next for the Tigers is a Saturday matinée at Penn (11–9, 3–4) who sit in fifth place in the league standings. The rivalry game will take place at the iconic Palestra, the oldest current arena in Division 1 college basketball. 

Max Hines is a staff Sports writer for the ‘Prince.’ 

Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.

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