One-Two Punch of Chen, Morton Sparks 3rd Quarter Run, Helping Tiger Women’s Hoops Pull Away from Dartmouth
RISING UP: Princeton University women’s basketball player Kaitlyn Chen heads to the hoop in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, junior guard Chen tallied a game-high 16 points with four assists and three rebounds to help Princeton defeat Dartmouth 64-47. The Tigers, now 17-5 overall and 8-2 Ivy League, play at Brown on February 17 and at Yale on February 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
With the Princeton University women’s basketball team clinging to a 31-25 lead against visiting Dartmouth early in the third quarter last Saturday, the Tigers rode a unconventional one-two punch to break the game open.
With starting point guard Kaitlyn Chen scoring eight points and reserve forward Paige Morton contributing four points, Princeton produced a 21-8 surge and never looked back on the way to a 64-47 victory, improving to 17-5 overall and 8-2 Ivy League.
Chen, for her part, attributed the third quarter run to some intense defense.
“It was just to do what we always do, lock it down on defense,” said Chen “Our defense translates to our offense.”
Junior star Chen translated those stops into several end-to-end drives as she sliced through Dartmouth players on the way to the hoop.
“Coach (Carla Berube) just mentioned slowing myself down,” said Chen, who tallied a game-high 16 points with four assists and three rebounds in the win. “I felt like once I slowed myself down I was able to see things open up more.”
Sophomore forward Morton enjoyed a second strong effort against the Big Green as she tallied 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting in a 79-59 win over Dartmouth on January 21.
“Playing against Dartmouth is always really fun,” said Morton, who ended up with eight points, four rebounds, and two steals against the Big Green last Saturday. “We do a lot of ball screen actions; it is fun to roll and see my guards pass me the ball.”
Princeton head coach Carla Berube had fun watching Chen driving to the basket.
“Kaitlyn did a really good job of getting in the paint and just making plays in that stretch,” said Berube.
Berube was not surprised by Morton’s sharpshooting as she went four for five from the floor.
“Paige has a good shot; sometimes we talk about her threes next year and feeling more confident in that,” said Berube. “She has got a great midrange shot, she makes them in practice so they should transfer to games. She has the green light.”
In addition to Morton’s superb effort, Princeton also got eight points from Parker Hill off the bench.
“Paige and Parker, they play well against Dartmouth, I don’t know what it is,” said Berube. “It happened up there as well. They are great weapons to go to inside. I thought we had some good length on them at times when they went small and we took advantage of that. They worked really hard to get the basketball and we found them.”
Chen has emerged as a key offensive weapon for the Tigers as she is averaging a team-high 14.1 points a game, up from 10.5 points a game last winter.
“She is just making really good decisions with the basketball,” said Berube. “There are times where it has got be her, and there are times where she is finding the right pass to a scoring opportunity. When she pushes it in transition and gets out there and we are heading up the sideline and Julia [Cunningham] is making plays and Maddie [St. Rose] is doing good things, that is where we are at
In addition, Chen helps spark the Tigers with her upbeat mentality.
“I think they all love playing with her, they feed off of her great energy,” said Berube. “She plays hard all of the time. She plays with a lot of joy and I think that rubs off on other people too and gets them playing at a really high level. She is a really good floor general with those characteristics.”
Reflecting on her progress this winter, Chen believes it comes down to being more feisty.
“I guess just having more of an aggressive mentality,” said Chen. “I felt like last year, I was more facilitating.”
Morton, who is averaging 4.4 points a game this season and has made eight starts after scoring 1.6 points a game and making no starts as a freshman, is more aggressive on the court as well.
“I think I have a lot more confidence defensively and offensively this year,” said Morton. “It has been really fun.”
With Princeton having now posted nine straight wins and tied for first place with Columbia atop the Ivy standings, Berube believes her squad is in a good spot.
“I think we are taking good steps; of course last weekend was really good on the road and getting two wins,” said Berube, whose team defeated Columbia 74-56 on February 4 and Cornell 63-52 a day earlier. “That is hard, those back-to-backs. We want to do that this coming weekend. This weekend is going to be a big test, playing at Brown and at Yale. We are trending in the right direction.”
Morton believes the Tigers are primed for the tests ahead.
“It is taking it one day at a time, we really focus on getting better defensively every single day and getting better on knowing the scout and everything,” said Morton. “It is about the daily grind.”
Chen concurs, seeing embracing the daily grind as the key to success for the Tigers.
“I feel like we are just trying to get better day by day and just see where that takes us and not take steps back, said Chen. “That is our main focus.”
In Chen’s view, the win at Columbia was a big step forward for Princeton.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Chen. “It just shows that when we really focus and set our mind to something, how good we can be.”