Sophomore Chen Enjoys Superb Ivy Debut, Starring as PU Women’s Hoops Tops Harvard
RISING STAR: Princeton University women’s basketball player Kaitlyn Chen heads to the hoop in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, sophomore guard Chen made a superb Ivy League debut, tallying a career-high 15 points as Princeton defeated Harvard 68-50 in the league opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 8-4 overall and 1-0 Ivy, play at Columbia on January 7 and at Cornell on January 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
When the Princeton University women’s basketball team hosted Harvard last Sunday afternoon, it marked its first Ivy League game in 667 days.
The game also marked the Ivy debut for Princeton sophomore guard Kaitlyn Chen and she was pumped.
“It was a lot of fun, just coming out and playing with my team,” said Chen, a 5’9 native of San Marino, Calif., who didn’t get the chance to play last winter as the Ivy League canceled the season due to COVID-19 concerns.
“We have missed these games, this season has been so much fun. We have been waiting for this.”
Chen had a lot of fun in her first taste of Ivy action, making an immediate impact, scoring a career-high 15 points to help Princeton win 68-50 as it improved to 8-4 overall and 1-0 Ivy.
“I was just looking to be more aggressive and getting into gaps and finding my teammates,” said Chen, who chipped in three assists, three steals, and two rebounds in the win over the Crimson.
Making her third career start after recently having been inserted into the starting five, Chen is developing a comfort level with her new role.
“I know my teammates have my back,” said Chen, who is now averaging 7.8 points and 2.3 rebounds a game and leads Princeton with 30 assists.
“Whenever I have a question I can ask literally any of them because they are all so experienced and they all know what to do.”
In the win over the Crimson, Princeton led 31-22 at halftime and then outscored Harvard 23-9 in the third quarter and never looked back, stretching its lead to 26 at 57-31 early in the fourth on the way to the win.
“We focused up,” said Chen, reflecting on the third quarter surge.
“We were getting really good shots in the first half; we knew that they would start falling eventually and they did. We turned up the defense too and started locking in more.”
As Chen has adjusted to playing at the college level, she has learned to keep locked in every moment she is on the court.
“I guess just staying focused for all 40 minutes because all of these players are so good at making reads,” said Chen.
Chen has formed a good tandem at point guard with junior Maggie Connolly.
“I love playing with Maggie, it is so much fun,” added Chen.
“It is always good playing with another point guard. I know she is always looking for me and I am always looking for her.”
Princeton head coach Carla Berube led finally getting back into Ivy play.
“It was fun, it was Harvard versus Princeton,” said Berube.
“It was like another level, the non-conference gets you ready for these games. Now that it is finally upon us, it is exciting. There has been such a great rivalry with Harvard for many, many years.”
Berube was excited by her team’s play in its third quarter outburst against Harvard.
“It was just make shots, that was the focus and just really attack, attack the paint, attack the offensive boards,” said Berube.
“I thought we moved the ball well. We still missed a lot of open looks. We got out on the break too. I think our defense was fueling our offense and we got some easy scoring opportunities.”
Sophomore Chen has been making the most of her opportunity as a starter.
“Chen has been great,” asserted Berube. “She has the ability to go off, she is so athletic. She is also a great playmaker for her own shot and for others. I am excited, it is fun watching her play.”
In her Ivy debut against Harvard, Chen displayed that playmaking ability.
“It was a good matchup, [Harmoni] Turner is a good young player for Harvard and I thought Kaitlyn had an awesome game,” added Berube.
“It was her first Ivy contest and she came in really focused and confident. I thought both she and Maggie ran the show really well.”
Princeton focused on hitting the boards in the matchup with Harvard and ended up outrebounding the Crimson 46-41 on the day. Despite being plagued by foul trouble, sophomore Ellie Mitchell ended up with 11 rebounds while senior Abby Meyers grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds to go with her team-high 19 points.
“I thought Ellie had a really great second half, defensively and on the boards, we certainly missed her when she was out,” said Berube.
“They really crashed the boards hard. We saw on film that Harvard gets after it from every position so the defensive rebounding was going to be a focus for us.”
With Princeton heading to New York this weekend to play at Columbia and at Cornell, Berube hopes her team keeps going after it.
“It is exciting to go to Columbia on Friday night and then a long trip up to Cornell,” said Berube.
“This road trip is a tough one but we are just excited to get out and play games on the road. It has been a while.”
Chen, for her part, is excited to build on her Ivy debut.
“It’s just being super focused and locked in for our three days of practice,” said Chen.
“It should be a lot of fun, the first Ivy road trip for me. We were practicing hard and staying focused at practice this week. It is something we have been keying on. We wanted to come out today and make a mark.”