For the second time in three years, the Ivy League women’s basketball title came down to one game, the season finale between Princeton and Penn. And for the Tigers, this year’s result was disappointingly familiar.
Princeton fell to Penn, 62-60, at Jadwin Gym March 8. The Quakers (24-4, 13-1 Ivy) earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, while the Tigers (23-5, 12-2) will have to hope for an at-large berth, which would be a first for an Ivy team.
Princeton trailed for most of the contest, as Penn seemed to have an answer for every challenge. When Alex Wheatley ’16 finally put the Tigers ahead, 56-55 with two minutes remaining, Quaker guard Anna Ross replied with a layup and was fouled. She converted the free throw to put Penn up 58-56. Penn made four more foul shots in the final minutes to seal the win.
Open shots were hard to come by on both ends of the court. Penn was able to slow the Tigers with full-court pressure. “They’re very skilled and they have a lot of kids that can score,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said. “We didn’t want to guard them [in the half court] for 25 seconds a possession.”
Penn forward Michelle Nwokedi finished with a team-high 17 points, including back-to-back layups to stretch a two-point lead to six at the end of the third quarter.
Wheatley led Princeton with 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting and also tied for a team-high with seven rebounds. “She was our most aggressive player tonight,” head coach Courtney Banghart said. “She was tremendous. I’m really proud of her.”
Both Princeton and Penn rank in the top 40 of the Division I RPI. McLaughlin said that the Tigers were a tournament-worthy team, and Banghart agreed. It may be an anomaly for two Ivy teams to be this strong in one year, she said, but “if they go on the strength of the current year, we’re two of the best teams in the East.”