NEW YORK (AP) - After clinching a fifth NCAA bid in six seasons, the Princeton Tigers had a muted celebration.
The 13th-ranked team is saving its big party for Tuesday night when it plays rival Penn. The Tigers will have a chance to finish the regular season 30-0 and go into the NCAA tournament unbeaten. They will receive the league’s championship trophy as well.
“It was my choice not to get the Ivy trophy tonight at Columbia,” said Princeton coach Courtney Banghart after her team beat Columbia 63-44 on Saturday night. “We’re still Ivy champions on Tuesday and it saves the Ivy League the trip. Penn took what was ours and we’re going to go back and get it.”
The Tigers (29-0, 13-0 Ivy) lost the final regular-season game last season to Penn that ended Princeton’s run as Ivy champions.
“We all have a sour taste in our mouths from last year’s game,” Princeton’s Annie Tarakchian said. “It will be nice for us to go out there and end with a bang. We are focused on getting the 30th one. It doesn’t put aside the Ivy championship.”
The Tigers are the only undefeated team in women’s basketball and broke the league record for best start to a season surpassing the 1970-71 Penn men’s basketball team that won its first 28 games. Princeton became the second team to earn an NCAA berth, joining Tennessee State, which won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament earlier on Saturday.
Princeton led 9-8 early on before going on a 14-2 run led by Blake Dietrick to make it 23-10 midway through the first half. The Tigers then went cold from the field and Columbia was able to hang around. The Lions only trailed 28-22 with 1:50 left in the half before the Tigers closed the first 20 minutes with an 8-1 run. Tarakchian scored five points during the burst, starting it with a 3-pointer and also hitting a reverse layup.
Dietrick’s two free throws with five seconds left gave Princeton a 36-23 lead at the half.
The Tigers kept it going to start the second half, scoring seven of the first 10 points to put the game away. Their lead didn’t get below 14 the rest of the way.
When the final buzzer sounded the Tigers had a businesslike celebration huddling up and thanking their fans. It’s their fifth title in the past six seasons.
Dietrick finished with 17 points to lead the Tigers.
Tori Oliver scored 18 points to lead Columbia (8-20, 2-12).
Princeton: The Tigers have won all but two of their games by double digits this season. … Princeton and the Kentucky men’s team are the only undefeated teams left in Division I basketball.
Columbia: This was the highest-ranked women’s team ever to play in Levien Gym. … The Lions honored seniors Amara Mbionwu, Campbell Mobley, Crystal Owusu and Miwa Tachibana before the game. … The eight wins were the most for Columbia in five years.
LACK OF CELEBRATION: The Tigers couldn’t cut down the nets at Columbia because of a league rule which doesn’t allow it on the road. The Tigers plan on cutting down the nets at home before the NCAA selection show on March 16.
Princeton is at Penn on Tuesday.
Columbia’s season is over.
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