Princeton senior Grace Stone made a steal with 14 seconds remaining to give her team one last chance to beat N.C. State and then delivered the win with a 3-pointer, leading the Tigers to a 64-63 first-round win at the NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Friday night.
“Stone cold,” head coach Carla Berube quipped in an ESPN interview after the game.
“My teammates, they have all the confidence in the world in me, and I knew that if I missed the shot, they were going to get offensive rebounds,” Stone said in the postgame press conference. “Before the play, I knew what shot we had to get, and when it happened, I blacked out — and then afterwards, just a bunch of hugs.”
The Wolfpack had led for the entire fourth quarter, but scoring by Stone and Kaitlyn Chen ’24, who each finished the game with 22 points, helped Princeton keep its goal of another March Madness win within reach.
The defense-minded Tigers entered the tournament on a 15-game winning streak and ranked fifth in the country in points allowed, allowing just 52.5 per game. They hadn’t given up more than 60 points in a game since late December.
N.C. State, after a slow start, had no trouble finding open looks in the first half, making 58.8 percent of its shots to go into the locker room with a 41-35 lead. Princeton returned to form after the break, making a series of defensive stops and scoring on a pair of 3-pointers by Stone and two challenging shots by Chen to recapture the lead, 45-41. N.C. State recovered and held a 55-51 edge heading into the fourth quarter, and led by eight points (63-55) before Princeton’s 9-0 run to close the game.
Princeton is the first Ivy League school to win games in both the women’s and men’s tournaments in the same season, and co-captain Julia Cunningham ’23 said the Tigers drew some inspiration from the men’s team’s upset win over Arizona on Thursday. “We looked at each other and were like, all right, we’re next, now it’s our turn,” she said. “I think it’s just really special — a special week to be a Tiger.”
In three seasons at Princeton, Berube has led the Tigers to a combined 75-11 record with three Ivy League championships and two NCAA Tournament appearances, both with a first-round win. (COVID-19 canceled the postseason in 2019-20, when Princeton was 26-1 in the regular season, and Ivy teams did not compete in 2020-21.)
Princeton will face No. 2 seed Utah on Sunday (7 p.m. ET on ESPN2) with a chance to become the first Ivy team to advance to the Sweet 16.
“Utah is a really great team,” Berube said in the postgame. “They have had an unbelievable season in the Pac-12. They’ve got great, skilled players and shooters, and yes, they put up a lot of points. Our defense needs to be really, really solid.”
Princeton women’s basketball’s first-round wins in the NCAA Tournament
2023 — Princeton 64, N.C. State 63
2022 — Princeton 69, Kentucky 62
2015 — Princeton 80, Wisconsin-Green Bay 70