Penn (22-7, 13-1 Ivy) punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, defeating the second-seeded Princeton Tigers (16-13, 9-5), 57-48, in the championship of the first-ever Ivy League Tournament. With the win, the Quakers secured their third bid to the NCAA Tournament in the last four years.
The Red and Blue led wire to wire at The Palestra, beating the Tigers for the third time this season and second time in six days to ensure their ticket to the Big Dance on Selection Monday.
Junior Anna Ross led the charge for the Quakers, putting up 17 points and four assists after putting up 12 and six in the semifinals against Brown on Saturday. In the post, junior Michelle Nwokedi lived up to her Ivy Player of the Year mantle, posting 15 points and 11 boards for her 15th double-double of the season and her seventh in the last eight games. The duo was complemented by Kasey Chambers, a senior, who contributed 13 points, four boards, and five assists in her final game at The Palestra.
It was the Penn defense that made the win possible, limiting the Tigers to 18-for-64 (28.1 percent) shooting and allowing just seven assists as the Quakers themselves shot 22-for-55 (40 percent) from the field and a critical 8-for-25 (32.0 percent) from three. Penn’s technical control powered the win, with a 15-to-11 assist/turnover ratio, five blocks, and just 13 total fouls on the afternoon.
The Quakers’ signature defense held the Tigers scoreless for nearly the first three minutes of the contest, allowing the Red and Blue to jump out to an early 8-4 lead in part to a pair of baskets from Ross. After Princeton narrowed it to an 8-7 gap at the media timeout, neither team could gain any separation—it was a 15-14 advantage for Penn by the end of the first frame with Ross’ six and Chambers’ four points carrying the majority of the burden for the Quakers.
In the second quarter, Ross started right back where she left off, nailing a trey on Penn’s opening possession, and a pair of layups from sophomore Princess Aghayere brought the Quakers’ lead out to eight with 7:20 left in the first half. The Red and Blue held the Tigers without a point for the first 8:48 of the second quarter, facilitating a 12-0 run as Penn held their rivals to just 22.6 percent shooting in the first half. A pair of blocks from Nwokedi helped keep the run going, and the Quakers ultimately took a 29-18 lead into the break.
The Quakers didn’t let up into the second half, as Nwokedi hit back-to-back treys before Ross added two baskets of her own for an 11-3 run. The Tigers were simply unable to get much momentum—whenever they strung a basket or two together, the Red and Blue were quick to respond at the other end with 12 of their 16 third-quarter points coming from beyond the arc. Through three frames, Penn held on to a 45-30 advantage.
After a quiet 30 minutes, Chambers hit her stride in the fourth quarter, hitting consecutive shots from the corner early in the frame. Princeton started chipping away at the Quakers’ lead, however, getting it to 50-39 with under six minutes to play before Chambers drained another three to stop the run. Although the Tigers were able to get the deficit to single digits with a minute to play, they got no closer than seven before they had to start fouling and the Quakers could ice the game and secure the championship in the first-ever Ivy League Tournament.
With the win, the Quakers secured their 22nd victory of the year, tying the second-best mark in program history behind last year’s 24-win campaign. Four of the five winningest seasons in program history have come under Head Coach Mike McLaughlin, each in the last four years. This year is the first time in program history that Penn has won back-to-back regular season Ivy League championships.
This is Penn’s fifth-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament. They are a 12 seed in the east region and will face 5 seed Texas A&M in Los Angeles on Saturday. Last year, the Quakers were a 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament, facing a seventh-seeded Washington that eventual made the Final Four.