PHILADELPHIA, PA. 2/26/2019 – What was at stake? First place in the Ivy League women’s basketball standings. The University of Pennsylvania and the Princeton Tigers, like so many times before. Now, they share the lead in the Ancient Eight as Princeton wins 68 – 53 at the Palestra behind 33 points and 10 rebounds by Princeton forward Bella Alarie who was 13 of 21 from the floor and 7 of 10 from the free throw line.
“She (Alarie) presents challenges on both ends of the floor,” said Penn Coach Mike McLaughlin. “In the second half we gave up way too many lobs to her. We had too many breakdowns and she made us pay for them.”
The tide of the changed in favor of the Tigers right after halftime. Princeton led 33 – 31, but charged out of the gate as Alarie scored the first 8 points of the half. Sydney Jordan gave the Tigers a 14-point lead just under three minutes into the quarter. Alarie had 13 of the Tigers 17 third quarter points.
“Coming out of halftime they scored on the first four possessions, and that’s where they gapped us a little bit,” said McLaughlin. “We made a little bit of a run. They came at us really good and we didn’t respond as well as we could.”
Still, Penn made a charge to get to within 50 – 46 going into the fourth quarter. But the Quakers ran into Alarie who scored 7 in the fourth quarter as the lead grew to 65 – 51 at the 4:18 mark. The dagger play came with 5:32 on the clock when Tigers guard Carlie Littlefield hit a three-pointer and was fouled. The four-point play put Princeton ahead by double figures. Littlefield scored 14 points and handed out 6 assists. The visitors won the fourth quarter 18 – 7.
Basketball is a numbers game and in the second half the Tigers made 13 of 27 for 50%. The Quakers were successful on 7 of 29 field goal attempts for 28.6%.
Penn had three players score in double figures. Princess Aghayere led the way with 14 points and Eleah Parker contributed 10. Guard Kendall Grasela scored 11 points to set a career-high, all her points coming in the first half.
“I thought Kendall was aggressive, aggressive to score,” McLaughlin said about the performance of Grasella. “I was proud of her how she came out of the gate. We needed that and she showed that she could do it. I thought she was the bright light tonight. She showed another level of who she is.”
Both teams sit atop of the Ivy League with 8 – 2 records, and both will host Harvard and Dartmouth this coming weekend. There is still much to play for, and nothing is decided. But Penn and Princeton could meet again in the Ivy Tournament. Each team holds a win on the other’s home floor. Stay tuned.
“To beat a quality team you have to be really good in all areas, and I don’t think that was the case tonight,” said McLaughlin.
Written By: Glenn Papazian