December 20, 2023

Sophomore Guard St. Rose Shows Growth, Helping PU Women’s Hoops Defeat Rutgers

SHOOTING STAR: Princeton University women’s basketball player Madison St. Rose puts up a shot in a game last season. Last Wednesday, sophomore guard St. Rose tallied 17 points as Princeton defeated Rutgers 66-55. The Tigers, now 8-3, are next in action when they play at Vermont on December 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After struggling early on last winter to get up to speed in her freshman season with the Princeton University women’s basketball team, Madison St. Rose has developed a self-assurance based on that experience and some grinding in the offseason.

“I am more confident and comfortable with the whole Princeton system and just how everything works,” said sophomore guard St. Rose. “I feel like last year, I was adjusting. I had a really hard time adjusting just because of the fast pace and constantly lifting. It took a toll on my body. I felt like my working over the summer and just trying to get myself ahead definitely made me a better player.”

Last Wednesday against visiting Rutgers, St. Rose didn’t waste any time displaying the dividends of that work, pouring in 10 points to help the Tigers jump out to an 18-5 lead over the Scarlet Knights.

“In practice one day, coach (Carla Berube) was like try to be a starter, she said that to all of the players; I kind of took that personally because I feel like there were moments in past games where I wasn’t being aggressive at the start off the game and that kind of made the game close and challenging for us,” said St. Rose.

“Recently I have really been trying to focus on the first five minutes and just take it like five minutes, five minutes. I was just hot, I kept shooting it and it kept going in. My teammates were trusting me with the ball and making these shots. It was a full circle moment; my teammates were trusting me and I was making my shots and it kept going like that.”

With St. Rose going on to score 17 points, hitting 7of 13 shots from the floor, including 3 of 4 3-pointers, Princeton topped Rutgers 66-55 before a crowd of 1,307 at Jadwin Gym as it improved to 8-3.

For St. Rose, a 5’10 native of Old Bridge, overcoming in-state rival Rutgers was something to savor.

“I know a lot of players on the opposing team, like Destiny Adams and Antonia Bates,” said St. Rose. “We have been competitors since high school so just to see familiar faces, I take pride in that. I don’t want you to beat me since we are both from New Jersey. I just wanted to come out with that win.”

While St. Rose’s sharp shooting helped Princeton jump out to an early advantage, it was lock-down defense by the Tigers that proved to be the key factor as they built a 38-17 halftime lead.

“It was getting stops, we executed the scout really well,” said St. Rose. “We doubled in their post. When they turned to do a spin move, we were right there. We were very handsy. We also wanted to push in transition, we got a lot of points off of that. It was just the little things, stopping them from getting inside, paint touches, and scores.”

Princeton head coach Berube liked the way her squad started defensively although things got a little sloppy in the fourth quarter as the Tigers got outscored 22-13.

“I just told the team I am proud of three quarters of our game,” said Berube. “I thought in the first half we really came out and executed the game plan defensively. I thought our hands were everywhere. We were digging and doubling and helping. We played really tough defense. I think it was fueling our offense. We got out in transition, we got some easy scoring opportunities.”

Overall, Berube was proud of the victory over the Big Ten opponent.

“It is a great win against a strong Rutgers team who I thought was playing really, really well lately,” said Berube, whose team is next in action when it plays at Vermont on December 29. “We knew it was going to be a great effort — we were happy to pull out the win and get a lot of players playing off the bench. We got some great contributions off the bench. It was a great way to end this semester.”

Berube is hoping to continue the series against local rival Rutgers.

“We would love to be able to play great competition in our own state, we don’t have to travel far,” said Berube. “I thought it was a great environment tonight. A lot of high school teams were here and then you are getting Rutgers fans and our fans.”

In reflecting on the win, Berube credited freshman guard Ashley Chea with giving the Tigers a great lift off the bench, tallying 13 points in 21 minutes.“She certainly makes a splash whenever she comes in,” said Berube of Chea. “She can score the basketball, she is a prolific 3-point shooter, she handles the ball. With her, it is just learning the pace of the game and how you can’t play so fast all the time.

It is just patience to run our offense when she is at the point. When she is playing with Kaitlyn [Chen], she can kind of just score it and make some plays. She has come a long way since September. She gives us a great lift off the bench. Mari [Bickley] does as well at the point. It is some great first years that are really helping us out.”

Senior point guard Chen triggered the Tiger offense as usual, scoring a game-high 19 points against Rutgers two days after tallying a career-high 31 points in a 61-58 win over Villanova.

“That is the way she needs to play,” said Berube of Chen, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week. “She is a very gifted offensive player whether she is making plays for others or just going by people and scoring. It seemed like she was getting in the lane a lot tonight and just making great plays and some tough shots. It is fun to watch, I am sure it is really fun to play with her. She has taken us on her shoulders. We definitely needed that against Villanova — she continued tonight with 19 points.”

It has been fun for Berube to watch St. Rose’s progress. “Finding Maddie was important, she was really on fire to start the game,” said Berube. “As a coaching staff, we are like feed Maddie. Let’s run our stuff for Maddie when she is feeling it like that. Lately she has been starting off games like that, and it is certainly helping us out a lot. Maddie doesn’t take bad shots, so any time she is letting it go, I am pretty sure it is going in, even though if it doesn’t always. I have that confidence in her, her teammates have that confidence in her. It is fun just seeing the growth over the course of a year in so many facets. I am just really, really proud of her.”

St. Rose, for her part, is looking to help her younger teammates grow.

“Having six freshmen, I knew we didn’t have that much time to get them into the system; we couldn’t really practice over the summer,” said St. Rose. “I felt like just make them comfortable. If I see a mistake, I am going to tell them so coach doesn’t have to get on them. It was kind of natural to me because I had that support from Julia [Cunningham] and Grace [Stone] last year. I just passed it on to them.”