December 14, 2022

Sparked by Mitchell’s All-Around Performance, Princeton Women’s Basketball Defeats Delaware

STANDING TALL: Princeton University women’s basketball player Ellie Mitchell, right, pressures a foe in recent action. Last Sunday, junior forward Mitchell tallied 10 points with nine rebounds and five assists to help Princeton defeat Delaware 62-47. The Tigers, now 6-3, play at Rutgers on December 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Last Thursday night, Ellie Mitchell helped the Princeton University women’s basketball team put a scare into perennial national power Connecticut.

Playing at UConn’s Gampel Pavilion before a crowd of 8,731, Princeton forced 27 turnovers and went on a late 21-8 run to cut the Huskies’ lead to 66-64 before succumbing 69-64.

“That was super cool; we gave them a great game, obviously it didn’t end up the way we wanted but we had it down the wire,” said junior forward Mitchell, who had three points, nine rebounds, four steals, and two assists in the defeat. “I think they were nervous, we came up with some great plays. We played a great game. We didn’t shoot super well but we fought the entire time. It was an incredible atmosphere. Obviously we wanted to win, but we are proud of the effort. We almost had them.”

Back at home in Jadwin Gym three days later to host Delaware, Princeton had it going as it topped the Blue Hens 62-47, improving to 6-3.

“We wanted to redeem ourselves, losing always stinks, no matter who you are playing,” said Mitchell, a 6’1 native of Chevy Chase, Md.

“We wanted to come out here strong. We had some ups and downs in the game but we ended well. We got some good stops — that helped us there and we shot a little bit better.”

In the win over Delaware, Mitchell’s passing and shooting were key as she contributed 10 points and a game-high five assists.

“Credit to my shooters, it is easy to pass it to them and they make the shots,” said Mitchell, who matched her career single-game high with the five assists.

“I am always trying to be more aggressive offensively. It has been a work in progress each year. If the shots aren’t falling, I take pride in my defense. I try to get a rebound and help in that way. I am always looking to develop on both ends of the court.”

Mitchell displayed her characteristic aggressiveness on the boards, grabbing a game-high nine rebounds against the Blue Hens.

“I am just trying to keep moving, I think is fun to throw my body at it,” said Mitchell, who came into the night averaging 13.1 rebounds a game, fourth-highest in the country. “If offense isn’t there, defense and rebounding is something that I can do. It is a lot of fun. It deflates the defense when someone shoots it and we come up with the rebound and get another shot. I think today we really capitalized on that, which is great.”

Princeton capitalized on its collective intensity, reeling off a 9-0 run to end the second quarter and build a 29-20 halftime lead.

“I think we needed more of that, we have a lot of ups and downs but we have it in us to go on that run,” said Mitchell. “It is keep that adrenaline and attack, attack, and score. That was just a little glimmer of what we can do and what we need to do throughout the season.”

The stifling Tiger defense, which forced the Blue Hens into 26 turnovers, showed what it can do.

“We have such great team chemistry. Our help was there much more than it has been in the past few games, which we have been working on,” said Mitchell. “It is a big focal point and that helped us. You trust your teammates. If I get beat, they are going to be there. Today I think that was really great for us.”

Princeton head coach Carla Berube, a former UConn standout who helped the Huskies win the 1995 NCAA title, enjoyed seeing the Tigers battle her alma mater.

“It was a really fun atmosphere,” said Berube. “I think we put on a pretty good show, with both teams going back and forth towards the end. It was an exciting game.”

It was fun for Berube to get back to her old stomping grounds.

“There is a great familiarity in that gym for me,” said Berube. “It felt like home to me. I have some really good memories there.”

Princeton nearly gave Berube another great Gampel memory.

“I thought we had a good opportunity to win the game, we just couldn’t execute and get a good shot,” said Berube. “We didn’t get the stops we needed to down the stretch. That’s UConn too, they know how to play in big games.”

The Tigers got the stops they needed in the win over Delaware.

“It was good to be home again, it feels like it has been a long time since we have been here,” said Berube. “I am glad we could pull out the win. Delaware is a very good team, they shoot the ball pretty well from the three. I thought we could have done a better job of defending that but I thought overall our defense was pretty good. It was great inside and we made them turn the ball over quite a bit. I wish it could lead to some more scoring opportunities — we will keep working on our transition offense.”

Berube viewed the 9-0 run at the end of second quarter as a turning point in the contest.

“I called a timeout there in the second quarter and said let’s get this thing going here,” recalled Berube. “We started to make some plays on the defensive end, and saw some shots go down. I think that gave us momentum Then they hit some big shots in the third quarter and cut it to six again. We just needed to make some plays.”

Relying on its calling card, the Tigers utilized its defense to hold off the Blue Hens

“We clamped down, that is who we are,” said Berube. “It was let’s get those stops, that leads to good stuff and then Kaitlyn [Chen] started to take over a little bit too. She made some shots and plays.”

Berube credited Mitchell with making plays all over the court.

“Ellie is very good right around the hoop with dump off passes to her,” said Berube. “She had five assists, so she is making plays for her teammates. She does a lot of great things for us. Sometimes it is in the box score and sometimes it is just Ellie being scrappy and making us better. She has made some strides. We have all the confidence in her to hit some shots. To get eight to 12 points from Ellie is a really good night.”

A lot of Tigers riots shots against Delaware as Chen scored a team-high 14 points with Julia Cunningham adding 11, Grace Stone scoring eight and Maggie Connolly chipping in six off the bench.

“They are all great scorers, we also got some great contributions off the bench,” said Berube. “Maggie was very good tonight. She just runs our offense really, really well and was just solid all the way around.”

With Princeton playing at Rutgers on December 15, Berube is looking for another great effort before the Tigers go on break.

“There is still some room to grow,” said Berube. “We have got Rutgers on Thursday, it is a tough place to play there. I have never played against them, so that will be new. It is a battle for New Jersey and then we have some time off from games. I think that it is going to be helpful, just getting some reps in practice.”

Looking ahead to its Ivy League campaign which starts when the Tigers play at Harvard on December 31, Princeton will focus on sharpening up its offense.

“I think just getting better, especially in the offensive end, just working better together,” said Berube. “I want us to be moving the ball better than we have been. At times, it gets stuck in someone’s hands. I like the way they work every day and get to practice and have fun playing together. We need to just keep building on that.”

While Mitchell likes where the team is nine games into the season, she believes it can get better and better.

“I think there is a lot of room for improvement,” said Mitchell. “We are getting better; sometimes we slip down and then we have a glimmer today where we were great on those 9-0 runs. We have had a great schedule. It is going to help prepare us for the tough Ivy League teams and hopefully the tournament. I am proud of us, it has been a lot of fun.”