Penn women beat Princeton 62-60 to win Ivy title
PRINCETON, N.J. (AP) Penn coach Mike McLaughlin didn't mind that he was totally drenched. He was soaking in the moment.
His team had doused their coach in the locker room with a bucket of water after they beat rival Princeton 62-60 to win the Ivy League championship and earn another trip to the NCAA Tournament. It's a tradition he can get used to.
''You get these opportunities not too many times in sports,'' McLaughlin said. ''You want them to enjoy every minute of it. There's a space at the top of the Palestra for them in the company of all the great Penn teams.''
As per Ivy League rules, the Quakers had to wait till they got back to their home gym to cut down the nets.
''I think it's going to be something,'' McLaughlin said of going home to celebrate. ''I can't wait to get back there.''
This was the second time in three seasons that the league's championship came down to the final game between these two rivals at Princeton. In both games, Penn came away with the victory.
Anna Ross scored 18 points and Michelle Nwokedi added 17 for the Quakers.
Penn (24-4, 13-1) led for most of the game and was up by five points midway through the fourth quarter before Princeton rallied. Alex Wheatley's layup gave Princeton a 56-55 lead with two minutes left. Ross answered with a 3-point play on the next possession.
''We'd been there before, been in a lot of close games before,'' McLaughlin said. ''We try to value every possession of the game. At the end we don't get stressed, we continue to play. We ran a set we ran all night. We trusted them and they stayed the course.''
After both teams committed turnovers, Princeton (23-5, 12-2) had a chance to tie it, but Michelle Miller was tied up on a drive and Penn had the possession arrow with 20 seconds left.
Kasey Chambers hit four free throws in the final 20 seconds to seal the win. Penn was 16 of 18 from the free-throw line in the game.
''Their big guys made big plays,'' Princeton coach Courtney Banghart said. ''Ross is one of the best guards in the league.''
Wheatley finished with 20 points to lead the Tigers.
Now Princeton has to wait until Monday to see if they will receive the conference's first at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. With each teams boasting RPI ratings in the 30s, this might be the league's best shot ever to get a second team in the NCAAs.
''This is uniquely different with two teams in the top 35 of the RPI,'' McLaughlin said. ''This is a two-bid league for sure. I believe Princeton deserves to be there.''
The first half got off to a slow start with the teams struggling on offense. It was similar to the first meeting, which Penn won by two points, where neither team could get into any kind of offensive rhythm. The game was tied at 26 with 1:13 left in the half before Ross hit a 3-pointer and then converted a 3-point play to give the Quakers a 32-26 halftime lead.
Penn: The Quakers won the first meeting this season also by two points on Jan. 9. They now have three wins in the past 16 meetings between the teams. ... Penn already has the most wins in program history, surpassing the 22 victories it achieved in 2001 and 2004.
Princeton: The Tigers senior class has won 97 games, including going 50-6 in the Ivy League. ... Princeton saw its 24-game home winning streak end.
Penn: NCAA Tournament.
Princeton: Awaiting postseason berth.