Tigers falls to Indiana, 56-55, in second round of NCAA Tournament
Abby Meyers dropped in a three-pointer. The buzzer sounded. The game ended, and with it the season.
All that was left was that look. It was on Meyers’ face. It was on Princeton head coach Carla Berube‘s face at the same time. It’s the look that says there must be something else they could do, one more possession, one more chance – and then the realization that no, that won’t be the case on this night or again this season, that they both were over at that moment, and that, regardless of how hard they played, how much they accomplished, how resilient they were and ultimately what their legacy will be, they were left only with that harsh reality that the NCAA tournament brings.
Princeton was fabulous, and tough, and for 40 minutes went toe-to-toe with a team that spent almost the entire season in the Top 10 nationally, and did so in front of a huge crowd in as hostile a venue as there is in college basketball. In the end, there was almost nothing that separated the two on the court, and canyons that separated them in terms of emotion.
The final score was Indiana 56, Princeton 55, and it was the Hoosiers who would advance to the Sweet 16. Princeton’s season ends with a 25-5 record, a perfect 16-0 of which came in the Ivy League regular season and tournament, and the program’s second NCAA tournament win, accomplished Saturday against Kentucky 69-62. If it didn’t make anyone in orange and black feel better when the game ended, over time it will.
Indiana, a team that starts five players who are all 1,000-point career scorers, advances to the Sweet 16 for the second time in program history and will play in Bridgeport this weekend. Meyers scored 11 points and finished the season having scored in double figures in every game. She also broke the program single-season points record with 538, six better than the old record, set in 2007-08 by Meagan Cower.
Princeton trailed by as many as 14 in the third quarter before storming back, eventually taking a lead at 50-49 with five minutes to go and then again at 52-51 with a little over a minute to play. Indiana tied it when Grace Berger made one of two foul shots with 58 seconds to go and went up 54-52 on Berger’s drive with 38 seconds left. Princeton’s chance to tie ended with an Ali Patberg steal with four seconds to go, and after two made foul shots, Meyers dropped in a three-point at the buzzer.
The Tigers may have fallen short, but it wasn’t by much. Even when Indiana started to pull away, the team never quit, instead cutting a 43-29 third-quarter deficit to 45-42 heading into the fourth. Even when Indiana went back up by seven, the Tigers surged back again.
Princeton wasn’t able to get into a rhythm in the first half due to foul trouble, as Meyers, Kaitlyn Chen and Grace Stone all picked up two. It was 17-17 at the end of the first quarter, but Indiana put together a big second quarter and take a 10-point lead at the break at 39-29.
Princeton had four players score in double figures, led by Stone and Julia Cunningham with 13 each, followed by Meyers with 11 and Chen with 10. Berger led everyone with 15. One player who wasn’t in double figures in points was Ellie Mitchell, but she was incredible all night, finishing with six points and 15 rebounds.