January 18, 2023

St. Rose Emerging as Star for PU Women’s Hoops, Coming Up Big as Tigers Top Penn in Ivy Showdown

COMING UP ROSES: Princeton University women’s basketball player Madison St. Rose puts up a shot in recent action. Last Monday, freshman guard St. Rose scored a team-high 15 points to help Princeton defeat Penn 55-40. She was later named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week. The Tigers, now 12-5 overall and 3-2 Ivy, play at Dartmouth on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Madison St. Rose struggled to find a rhythm this winter in her freshman campaign for the Princeton University women’s basketball team, shooting just 26.5 percent from the floor (27-of-102) in the first 13 games of her career.

But while St. Rose could have gotten discouraged as she misfired, her teammates wouldn’t let her.

“They are always telling me to keep shooting because they know all of the potential I have as a player,” said St. Rose, a 5’10 native of Old Bridge who starred for St. John Vianney and was a three-time NJ.com Player of the Year.

St. Rose started to display that potential as she scored 15 points in a 70-48 win over Cornell on January 7 and then tallied 19 points as Princeton topped Hartford 84-37. Utilizing a short-term memory has helped St. Rose get into groove.

“I always try to forget about the first shot that I miss and just keep playing,” said St. Rose. “I know I am capable of making many shots if I am just locked into the game instead of my missed shot.”

Last Monday, St. Rose was locked in as Princeton hosted Penn at Jadwin Gym in an Ivy League showdown.

“As I saw by the fans and the crowd and the energy, it was a really, really intense feeling just being on the court,” said St. Rose, who was making the ninth start of her career. “Penn was undefeated in the Ivy League. We were the underdogs (with a 2-2 Ivy mark) and it was really fun to play with my teammates and try to take them down.”

In the first half, St. Rose tallied five points and played some tough defense as Princeton jumped out to a 31-17 lead. Catching fire, St. Rose scored seven points in the first 2:45 of the third quarter as the Tigers built their lead to 40-21 and cruised to a 55-40 win over the Quakers before a spirited crowd of 1,018 at Jadwin.

“My teammates just kept telling me to shoot,” said St. Rose, reflecting on her hot start to the second half in the win which improved Princeton to 12-5 overall and 3-2 Ivy. “They kept leaving me open in the corner so it was OK. I might as well just shoot it and it kept going in. So from there, that is how my confidence grew.”

St. Rose saw Princeton’s dominant win over the Quakers as a confidence builder for the squad.

“I feel like this is a statement for us, together as a team we are finally getting our offense and defense together,” said St. Rose, who was later named the Ivy Rookie of the Week and is now averaging 7.6 points and 2.2 rebounds a game. “As we keep playing different teams. Hopefully we just take our confidence and we keep climbing up.”

As a New Jersey native, St. Rose has been following the Tigers for years and likes the upbeat attitude around the program.

“I came and visited Princeton and just from watching, I could see they always had energy and they always had each other’s backs,” said St. Rose. “They were always there for each other, that is what I like. I came to the Texas game (a 70-53 loss on December 22, 2021). They did end up losing, but they still seemed positive because they knew that they were able to grow from that game.”

Princeton head coach Carla Berube is excited by the growth she is seeing in St. Rose.

“As a staff we do it and I think her teammates are really confident and tell her to keep shooting, Maddie, saying you have got this,” said Berube. “She also puts the time in, she comes in here on her own outside of practice and puts shots up. She is always trying to keep her head up.”

St. Rose certainly stepped up in the win over Penn. “She has the green light to shoot when she is open and I thought we found her well,” said Berube of St. Rose, who shot 6-of-12 from the floor in the win, including 3-of-6 from the 3-point line. “She is confident and we are more confident in her. She made some shots today. I thought she cut really well when they were in zone, just finding gaps. She did a great job on the defensive end too.”

The Tigers produced a stifling defensive effort, falling behind 8-2 just 2:20 into the contest and then outscoring the Quakers 29-9 over the rest of the half, holding Penn to 7-of-26 shooting (26.7 percent).

“We locked in and played really good defense, we made things difficult for them,” said Berube. “Julia [Cunningham] and the whole squad did a really good job on Kayla (Penn star Kayla Padilla), she is just a phenomenal scorer. It is five against her. Jordan Obi is also a really, really great scorer. We just made sure that we were communicating really well, helping each other. We did a pretty good job on the defensive boards, allowing them to only one shot. It was just being scrappy and playing the defense I have been asking for. We finally just played so much better today.”

On the offensive end, Princeton pushed the play and showed balance as Cunningham scored 11 points, Kaitlyn Chen chipped in 10 and Grace Stone added nine.

“I thought we were trying to make some plays in transition which I want them to do but we also turned the ball over a few times with some errant passes,” said Berube. “I just like the aggressiveness that we were playing with on both ends. Julia has been finding her shot here recently, which will help us with the offensive load that we are missing from last year. I think Grace has been really confident in her shooting more than last year. It is going to be a team effort, there is not just one player. You try to stop Kaitlyn and have four others who can score the basketball. Maggie [Connolly] has been really solid off the bench too, putting Kaitlyn at the two and letting her run off of different screens than she would at the point. It is a really good balance.”

In assessing Princeton’s superb performance against Penn, Berube saw it as simply taking care of business more than making a statement.

“We are just looking at it as the next win that we need to make the Ivy League tournament and just putting ourselves in a good position,” said Berube, whose team is currently tied with Harvard for fourth in the league standings with Penn, Yale and Columbia all at 4-1 and the top four qualifying for the Ivy postseason tournament which is being held at Princeton in early March.

“I am not about making any statements, it is just about the next teams ahead and winning those games and playing the way we are capable of playing. We have to keep winning games so we can make that tournament.”

As Princeton plays at Dartmouth this Saturday, Berube is looking for her players to stay on the winning track.

“It is about getting better daily, we have had some really good practices,” said Berube. “The energy has been great, the energy on the bench was great. We have got to get another week of great work to go play up at Dartmouth which is not an easy place to play. I like where we are right now.”

St. Rose, for her part, likes the way Princeton has bounced back from starting its Ivy campaign with losses to Harvard (67-59 on December 31) and Columbia (58-55 in OT on January 6).

“That was definitely devastating for us and it was a bit of a shock,” said St. Rose. “We can’t take any team for granted, we just have to keep working.”