With Stone Looking to Make the Most of Final Season, Tiger Women’s Basketball Produces Solid 2-1 Start
STONE AGE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Grace Stone looks to pass the ball in recent action. Last Friday, senior Stone scored 17 points in a losing cause as Princeton fell 69-59 to Villanova. Stone and the Tigers bounced back on Monday as the Tigers topped Seton Hall 62-58 to improve to 2-1. In upcoming action, Princeton hosts Fordham on November 16 and then plays at Buffalo on November 19. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Grace Stone struggled a bit on the opening night of her final season for the Princeton University women’s basketball team.
While Princeton defeated Temple 67-49 on November 7 in its season opener, senior guard Stone was cold, going 1-for-6 from the floor with three points in 24 minutes of action.
Last Friday as Princeton hosted Villanova, Stone started out sizzling, scoring 15 points in the first quarter, including four 3-pointers, as the Tigers led 21-20 heading into the second.
“I was just trying to be aggressive, just taking whatever the defense gave me,” said Stone, a 5’11 native of Glen Cove, N.Y., who averaged 9.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists last season. “I was just finding open spots and just trying to shoot in my rhythm. Every game is different, every team is different. They were giving me the three so I decided to take them.”
Princeton, though, had trouble guarding Villanova in the second quarter as the Wildcats outscored the Tigers 21-9 to build a 41-30 halftime lead.
“We had a scout, we knew what we were doing,” said Stone. “I think it was a communications thing, that comes with games early in the season. It is something we definitely need to work on moving forward.”
Tightening up things on the defensive end, Princeton seized momentum in the third quarter as it narrowed the gap by outscoring Villanova 19-12 to narrow the gap to 53-49 heading into the fourth.
“It was just us trying to string together stops in the first three minutes of the second half,” said Stone. “I think we did that in the third quarter, it was just keeping it consistent and keeping that momentum.”
The Tigers forged ahead 59-57 with 4:02 left in regulation, but Villanova answered with a 12-0 run to earn a 69-59 triumph before a crowd of 1,061 at Jadwin Gym.
“We were feeling good, I think were executing our plays well in the third quarter,” said Stone, who ended up with 17 points, two rebounds, and two assists in the loss. “We were getting good, open shots and then it is just about starting the fourth quarter the way we started the third. We struggled with that a little. They just made tough shots; [Maddy] Siegrist (who scored a game-high 32 points for Villanova) is really good.”
Although the final result was tough for the Tigers, Stone wasn’t fazed by the setback.
“It is just one game, it doesn’t define our season,” said Stone. “We have to turn the page. It is really just about bouncing back and getting better at the things we need to work on.”
On Monday, the Tigers did bounce back, topping Seton Hall 62-58 to improve to 2-1.
“I think our defense is going to be really big,” said Stone, looking ahead to the contest which saw her score seven points with four rebounds and an assist. “We have to make sure that we are communicating on all the actions they are running and playing hard. It is really important.”
Stone is determined to play hard all winter long in her final campaign for the Tigers.
“It is exciting, it feels like I have been at Princeton forever now,” said Stone. “It is my fifth year as a Tiger. I am really just trying to enjoy every moment of it.”
Princeton head coach Carla Berube knew the Tigers were in for an exciting challenge in the clash with the Wildcats.
“They are a very, very good team with just a phenomenal player in Maddy Siegrist,” said Berube. “They are just well-coached. They run their sets very well, they execute well. It was going to be a tough defensive matchup for us.”
As Princeton took the lead in the fourth quarter, Berube believes the Tigers could pull out a win.
“We were feeling good, we were feeling confident, we talked about what we needed to do to keep building on the little lead that we did have,” said Berube. “I thought when Siegrist went out with four fouls, we would get some better opportunities. We were getting some stops, we just couldn’t make shots. We had great looks. They made plays when we didn’t. They made the shots, that is basketball.”
Stone made shots to help Princeton get off to a good start.
“Grace was on fire from the three, she was awesome,” said Berube. “She is capable of doing that. We have a lot of different scorers. That was her night behind the arc in the first half. She had a really great game.”
Sophomore forward Paige Morton had a good game, tallying 10 points and five rebounds.
“Paige is great, she is more confident and stronger,” said Berube of Morton, who helped spark the third quarter rally. “She is a really great 6’2, 6’3 frame to go to inside. I am looking forward to the season she will have.”
Berube knows that senior guard Julia Cunningham is going to have a great season for the Tigers.
“She fought back there, she had a tough first half with her shooting but she found her rhythm and made some big shots,” said Berube of Cunningham, who tallied a team-high 18 points against Villanova with six rebounds and three assists. “Julia is Julia and we will always get great things from her as well.”
Berube expected Princeton to fight back against Seton Hall and the Tigers did just that, sparked by junior forward Ellie Mitchell, who scored eight points and grabbed a career-high 23 rebounds in the win over the Pirates.
“I trust my players and have confidence in them that they will bounce back from this, this is not a defining game,” said Berube, whose team hosts Fordham on November 16 and then plays at Buffalo on November 19.
“It will make us better. They are upset, they are competitors. They want to win every game, that is the mindset every game. They are doing OK, we have to turn the page quickly. There is no time to sulk at all.”
Stone, for her part, believes Princeton will get better and better as the season unfolds.
“This team is really close, we get along with each other so well,” said Stone. “On the basketball court, we are finding each other more and we are getting more used to each other’s tendencies and working together. I think things are going up for us.”