Princeton Tigers
(JSN file photo by Christopher Shannon)

Princeton eliminated in Opening Round of NCAA Tournament

Princeton faced the West Virginia Mountaineers in Iowa City on Saturday for their Opening Round NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament matchup. The Tigers were looking to get a ticket to the second round after they were defeated by NC State in the first round last season. The winner of the game would face the No. 1 seed Iowa Hawkeyes and their star player, Caitlyn Clark. The Hawkeyes faced the Holy Cross Crusaders and won 91-65.

The Tigers won the Ivy League regular season with a record of 25-4 and were also tournament champions. This was their fifth straight tournament appearance and the program's 11th overall.

The game

If it were possible to point out the key aspect of the game, it would've been turnovers. Both teams took advantage of the errors of the opposing team in their favor. This was especially true in the second half.

Princeton started the game strong. Their execution on both ends of the floor was on point, especially defensively, as they did not allow West Virginia to get great chances of getting the ball to the rim early in the game. With Ellie Mitchell's ability on rebounds—she's currently the leader in rebounds in both women's and men's program history—they were able to quickly go from defense to offense and create plays. Mitchell is also a three-time Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year.

However, late in the second quarter, Princeton's problems started showing as they held a two-point advantage at the half. Princeton head coach Carla Berube said in an interview that "[Princeton had to] get in offense and execute a little better" for the second and final half of the game.

Not long after the third quarter started, the Mountaineers tied the game at 29. West Virginia turned up the pressure on the Tigers, beginning a long turnover streak that gave the Mountaineers their first lead. Princeton called a timeout as they had six turnovers, and the Mountaineers went on an 11-3 run to make the score 36-29. 

The Tigers were able to get out of the slump but still had huge difficulties contesting without falling and not committing turnovers. Despite the many faults, West Virginia did not convert free throws to extend their advantage. They ended up with 16-of-34 at the free-throw line.

The fourth quarter was as tense as the other three. With five minutes remaining in regulation, Princeton had already committed 19 turnovers. The Tigers could've felt greater pressure as they fought against the clock while West Virginia tried to slow down the game. 

With one minute left and nine points down, multiple possessions resulted in no points for the Tigers. West Virginia deliberately used their timeouts to stop the game in important moments that could have given Princeton any momentum.

Mitchell fouled out during one of the last plays of the game as the Tigers saw their season end after a tough 63-55 loss.

Up Next For the Tigers

Princeton ends the season with a record of 25-5 and two trophies in the Ivy League. Madison St. Rose, a native of New Jersey and from St. John Vianney High School, had a fantastic game with 22 points. She is expected to be one of the team's top players next season.

Sadly, this season is a goodbye for some players who have been essential to the success of the women's basketball program these past years. Ellie Mitchell, Chet Nweke, and Kaitlyn Chen were all seniors.

The Princeton Tigers will rest and revive themselves for the next season, hopefully seeing the program continue their dominance in the Ivy League and establish themselves as a top team in the nation.