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SHUT UP AND DANCE: Women’s basketball roars past Columbia for fifth-straight Ivy title

Entire Princeton team poses for photo with gold Ivy League trophy.
2023-24 women's basketball poses with Ivy League trophy at Levien Gymnasium.
Photo courtesy of @PUTIGERS/X.

NEW YORK, NY — After a season of buildup between the two Ivy League superpowers, the final battle arrived. 

When the Tigers last traveled up to Manhattan three weeks ago, the women’s basketball team left a sold-out Levien Gymnasium with their first conference loss of the season, falling 67–65 to the Columbia Lions. Today, when an opportunity arose to avenge that defeat and return to the NCAA Tournament yet again, the ladies delivered.


“It’s one of the goals we’re working for every year. It’s really special,” senior Ellie Mitchell said after the game. “You’ll carry it with you for the rest of your life.”

In a decisive beatdown, Princeton (25—4 overall, 13—1 Ivy League) steamrolled Columbia (23—6, 13—1) 75–58 in the Ivy Madness championship game, punching a March Madness ticket for the fifth-straight year and leaving no doubt which of these two big cats reigns supreme in the Ivy League jungle.

In front of a hostile pride of Lions fans, Princeton took the lead from the get-go and never looked back, overcoming their shaky semifinal performance yesterday to put together potentially their most complete game of the season when the lights shone brighter than ever.

“We knew the scout, we knew the game plan, and they executed it really well,” Head Coach Carla Berube said after the game. “I think today, the difference maker was just the poise, the patience that we had to get the best shot that we could.”

Senior forward Ellie Mitchell won the opening tip for the Tigers, setting the tone immediately in front of the hostile crowd. Mitchell passed to sophomore guard Madison St. Rose, who made a quick jumper and another for the Tigers to quickly go up 4–0. Princeton kept the ball rolling in the opening minutes, forcing four turnovers to prevent Columbia from gathering any offensive momentum. 

Helped by Princeton's famously strong defense and shots on the inside from Mitchell and fellow senior guard Chet Nweke, the Tigers rolled into the media timeout up 11–5, clearly unfazed by Columbia’s home court fans.


Out of the timeout, the Tigers kept the defensive momentum going with renewed energy from the bench. First-year guard Ashley Chea and sophomore forward Tabitha Amanze made their presence known, as Chea collected a layup, a key block, and assisted an Amanze layup. Amanze and her 6-foot-4-inch frame helped power the defensive onslaught, as the Tigers forced seven Columbia turnovers in the first quarter to power a 19–14 lead. 

“Our bench is awesome,” Chen said after the game. “They bring the energy every night, and we couldn’t be here without them.” 

Key to the defensive success was containing star Columbia guard Abbey Hsu, who scored her first points of the game with just seconds to go in the quarter. Hsu — the Ivy League Player of the Year — controlled Harvard to the tune of 22 points and 14 rebounds last night and is the engine that powers the Lions’ attack.

While she was contained in the first, Hsu began to wake up in the second. Starting things off with a deep three, Hsu had eight in the quarter before the first timeout.

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Heading into the media timeout with three and a half minutes to go, Mitchell’s and Hsu’s efforts nearly canceled each other out, as Princeton maintained a 29–25 lead. While Mitchell honed her craft in the paint, all of Abbey Hsu’s shots thus far came from beyond the arc, where she sunk three out of seven.

Not to be counted out, Princeton’s star power had answers. Senior guard and captain Kaitlyn Chen began to heat up after a relatively quiet first 15 minutes by draining two free throws and scoring on an easy layup on a play set up down low by Mitchell.

Led by Mitchell and Nweke, Princeton outrebounded Columbia by four and outscored them in the paint 26–6, but Columbia outscored Princeton 18–3 from long distance on nine more attempts. A clear battle of styles was developing, and the second half was set to determine who would emerge victorious after Princeton led 34–27 at the break.

“Whether it was getting into the post or it was on drives, I think it was really important for us to get paint touches that can open up things on the outside,” Berube said. “You’re always looking to score from inside.”

St. Rose started the scoring out of halftime with a quick jumper. Guard Cecilia Collins took the reins of the Columbia offense, dropping five points in the first five minutes, including a deep three that awakened the crowd. Heading into the media timeout, St. Rose answered, ending the Tigers’ one-of-nine three-point shooting drought with a jumper from long range. 

The third quarter has been the Tigers’ all year, and they continued that trend today. Chea came to life from long distance, draining two corner threes and adding a jumper. Finishing the quarter on a layup from junior forward Parker Hill with seconds to go, Princeton went into the fourth with a 55–39 lead.

Notably, Hsu scored zero points on zero attempts in the quarter. While Princeton’s 21 points in the quarter are the flashiest number from the frame, Hsu’s 0–0 proved to be a major setback in the Lions’ attempt to claw back the lead.

“Abbey has the ability to get up some quick shots and get them right back in the game,” Mitchell said. “It wasn’t going to be the one person that was on her, so I think that’s what we did [to stop her.] We had each other’s back, trust[ed] their help, and just communicated well.”

While Hsu tried to bring the Lions back into the game with a quick three to start the fourth, Princeton kept their momentum going. Four Tigers scored in the first six minutes, contributing to Princeton’s 10–9 advantage in the beginning of the quarter. Heading into the media timeout, St. Rose dropped the hammer, sinking her second three of the game to bring Princeton up 65–48 with just under four minutes to go.

If Columbia wanted a glimmer of hope, their odds were longer than Princeton men’s basketball’s near-successful Hail Mary attempt earlier today. In the final minutes, the Tigers pushed their lead towards 20 as the narrow window Columbia had to secure a comeback fell out of reach. When the final buzzer sounded, Princeton emerged victorious, winning in dominant fashion with a score of 75–58.

St. Rose led the scoring for the Tigers with 18 points followed closely by Chen, who was named Ivy League Tournament MVP for the third-consecutive year, with 17. 

“When you have Kaitlyn Chen on your team, you’re going to be okay,” Berube said. “You have someone that is the floor general; she’s poised, and she said it herself, she was a bit more poised tonight.”

Ellie Mitchell had yet another double-double, with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Mitchell is already the leading rebounder in Princeton history, and Saturday night’s success only added to her impressive time on the Tiger squad.

“Ellie sets a standard, like that’s what we are all striving to be,” Chen added.

The Tigers head into the Big Dance looking for their third-consecutive first-round victory after a win over Kentucky in 2022 and a dramatic triumph against NC State last year. After season-ending second-round losses to Indiana and Utah the last two years, the Tigers will look to accomplish a feat the program has never reached before — the Sweet 16. 

Experts predict them to be a nine-seed, which would be the Tigers’ highest seed since the storied 2014–2015 team, who entered the tournament with a 30–0 record as an eight-seed. The Tigers, if given a nine-seed, would have a first-round matchup with an eight-seed before a potential showdown with a first seed. Tiger fans can find out the Tigers fate tomorrow night when ESPN airs Selection Sunday, March 17 at 8 p.m. 

It’s a waiting game for Columbia, who likely remain on the outside looking in despite ranking 57th in the NET and making it to the Women’s NIT final after being snubbed yet again last year. 

“Columbia should be in the NCAA tournament,” Berube stated, echoing Columbia’s Head Coach Megan Griffith. “They are a really, really good team.”

While Berube’s defensive machine may seem like an arduous undertaking to manage, she still sees every game as a riveting experience and challenge — and looks forward to fighting to advance in the NCAA tournament.

“It’s exciting, it’s fun, and we’re going in there, whoever we play, looking to win games.”

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

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