The Princeton women’s basketball team is treating its first chance to host the Ivy Madness tournament as a business trip.
The top-seeded Tigers took care of business by defeating fourth-seeded Penn, 60-47, in the first tournament semifinal game Friday at Jadwin Gym. Princeton (22-5 overall) won its 14th straight game to reach its fifth Ivy title game in the five years that the tournament has been played. A win in the title game (5 p.m. Saturday at Jadwin) would earn the Ivy League’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, though Princeton also is considered a potential at-large selection.
“I’m really not thinking about the bids, the NET rankings, and all that,” said Princeton coach Carla Berube. “Now that the weekend is here, this is our focus — winning games.”
Kaitlyn Chen ’24 had another huge game against Penn with 24 points, six rebounds, and a pair of steals. The Ivy League Player of the Year had 27 in the meeting with Penn a week ago. She had 10 of her points Friday in the first quarter as Princeton jumped out to a 19-2 lead.
Ellie Mitchell ’24 had 10 points and 12 rebounds for her first double-double since Nov. 16 against Fordham. The conference’s top rebounder has had just four double-digit scoring games this season.
“I think it’s a great team effort,” said Mitchell, the Ivy Co-Defensive Player of the Year. “Obviously Kaitlyn is a big scorer for us and when the defense has to really crash on her, it opens it up for me. The team has a lot of confidence and coach has a lot of confidence in me to shoot.”
Madison St. Rose ’26 scored all 12 of her points in the first half. The Ivy Rookie of the Year was perfect from the floor in the second quarter for eight points in her first Ivy Madness game.
“I thought Maddie played really well,” Chen said. “She played with a lot of confidence tonight. She stepped up in the second quarter when we had a little lull.”
Princeton’s win was its 12th in the last 13 overall meetings with Penn (17-11). Unlike last week, when the Tigers had to rally in the second half, this time Princeton connected on the points it wanted to emphasize by starting quickly, pushing the ball in transition, getting the ball inside the lane for easier shots, and limiting Penn’s top scorers.
The Tigers forced five turnovers and held Penn to 1-for-13 shooting in the first quarter. Princeton jumped to a 16-0 lead before Penn’s Mandy McGurk made a layup with 2:14 left in the quarter.
Princeton scored 17 points in transition Friday after never mustering more than seven in either previous meeting with Penn this year. The transition scoring contributed to a 38-24 edge in points in the paint for the Tigers.
“When you get great defensive stops, you need to transition them to points,” Berube said. “We put an emphasis on it and worked on it. We got out on the break and made some great plays for each other. It was great to see that improvement.”
Julia Cunningham ’23 matched up on Penn’s leading scorer, Kayla Padilla, and harassed her into 7-for-21 shooting. Grace Stone ’23 did her part at the defensive end to limit Jordan Obi to seven points after the Penn forward scored 17 last week against Princeton.
“We have a lot of trust in each other,” Mitchell said. “We know if one person gets beat, the next person will be there.”
Princeton’s lead swelled to 19 points on St. Rose’s layup to start the second quarter. Penn had more offensive success in the quarter with a 19-13 advantage that included a half-court buzzer beater that trimmed Princeton’s halftime lead to 32-21.
Padilla’s 3-pointer helped Penn whittle the margin to 44-38 with just over two minutes left in the third quarter. Chen’s 20th point on a layup helped Princeton end the third quarter holding a 46-40 lead.
Mitchell caused a turnover on the defensive end and converted a short jumper for a 48-40 lead to start the fourth quarter and a Cunningham jumper made it 50-40 with 6:32 left. Princeton answered a Penn layup with layups from Chen, Cunningham, and Mitchell on a 10-2 run to give the Tigers a 56-42 lead midway through the final stanza. Princeton held Penn without a second basket in the fourth quarter until less than two minutes remained.
“I didn’t think we came out at halftime as well as we have been coming out when we’ve been down,” Berube said. “Hopefully tomorrow we put it all together.”
Princeton will be playing for its fourth straight tournament crown and the Ivy League’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Princeton won titles in 2018 and 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic ended the 2020 season and cancelled the 2021 season.