Stone Age: Princeton women’s basketball player Grace Stone looked like she was passing the ball in her latest move. The Stone senior scored 17 points in a loss as Princeton lost 69-59 to Villanova on Friday. Stone and the Tigers bounced back on Monday as the Tigers beat Seton Hall 62-58 to advance to 2-1. Up next, Princeton hosts Fordham on Nov. 16 before playing Buffalo on Nov. 19. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
Grace Stone struggled on opening night in her final season with the Princeton women’s basketball team.
While Princeton beat Temple 67-49 in its season opener on Nov. 7, senior guard Stone was lukewarm, going 1-of-6 from the field for 3-pointers in 24 minutes.
Stone got off to a hot start when Princeton hosted Villanova on Friday, scoring 15 points in the first quarter, including four 3-pointers, as the Tigers took a 21-20 lead going into the second.
“I’m just trying to be more aggressive and just take whatever the defense gives me,” said Stone, a 5’11 native of Glen Cove, N.Y., who averaged 9.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists. “I was just looking for openings and trying to shoot at my own pace. Every game is different, every team is different. They gave me three, so I decided to take them.”
Princeton had trouble defending Villanova in the second quarter, though, as the Wildcats outscored the Tigers 21-9 and took a 41-30 halftime lead.
“We had a scout and we knew what we were doing,” Stone said. “I think it’s a communication issue that came up early in the season. It’s something we absolutely need to work on moving forward.”
Princeton stepped up the defense and seized momentum in the third quarter to beat Villanova 19-12 to close the gap to 53-49 going into the fourth.
“It was just us trying to string the stops for the first three minutes of the second half,” Stone said. “I think we did that in the third quarter, just being consistent and keeping that momentum going.”
The Tigers led 59-57 with 4:02 left in regulation, but Villanova responded with a 12-0 run to win 69-59 in front of a crowd of 1,061 at Jadwin Arena.
“We felt good, I think we played well in the third quarter,” said Stone, who had 17 points, two rebounds and two assists in the loss. “We got good open shots and then started the fourth quarter the same way we started the third. We struggled a little bit with that. They just shot a tough shot; [Maddy] Siegrist (with a game-high 32 points for Villanova) was really good. “
While the end result was tough for the Tigers, Stone wasn’t bothered by the setback.
“It’s just one game, it doesn’t define our season,” Stone said. “We’ve got to turn the page. It’s really just about bouncing back and getting better at what we need to do.”
The Tigers did bounce back Monday, beating Seton Hall 62-58 to improve to 2-1.
“I think we’re going to be very strong defensively,” Stone said, looking ahead to a game in which she had seven points, four rebounds and an assist. “We’ve got to make sure we’re communicating about all the moves they’re running and playing hard. That’s really important.”
Stone is determined to play hard all winter in the Tigers’ final game.
“It’s exciting, and it feels like I’m now at Princeton forever,” Stone said. “This is my fifth year as a Tiger. I really just want to enjoy every moment of it.”
Princeton head coach Carla Berube knew the Tigers would face an exciting challenge against the Wildcats.
“They’re a very, very good team with just one phenomenal player, Maddy Siegrist,” Berube said. “They’re just well-coached. They run their setup well, they execute well. It’s going to be a tough defensive matchup for us.”
With Princeton taking the lead in the fourth quarter, Beroube believed the Tigers could take the win.
“We felt good, we felt confident, we discussed what we needed to do to continue to extend the small lead we did have,” Berube said. “I think we’re going to get some better chances when Siegrist gets four fouls out. We’ve got some stops and we just can’t shoot. We’ve looked great. They’ve come on while we’re not. They Make the shot, and that’s basketball.”
Stone’s shot helped Princeton get off to a good start.
“Grace was on fire from the trio, and she was great,” Beroube said. “She’s got the ability to do that. We’ve had a lot of different scorers. That was her first half night from beyond the arc. She had a really good game.”
Second-year forward Paige Morton was solid, finishing with 10 points and five rebounds.
“Paige is great, she’s more confident and stronger,” said Morton’s Beroube, who helped spark the third-quarter rebound. “She’s a 6’2, 6’3 frame that’s great for getting into the post. I’m looking forward to her new season.”
Berube knows senior guard Julia Cunningham will have a good season for the Tigers.
“She was there to fight back, she had a tough shot in the first half, but she found her rhythm and made some big shots,” said Cunningham’s Berube, who got the shot against Villanova. Team-high 18 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. “Julia is Julia and we will always have great things from her.”
Berube expected Princeton to fight back against Seton Hall, and the Tigers did just that, inspired by junior forward Ellie Mitchell, who scored eight points and a career-high in the win over the Buccaneers 23 rebounds.
“I believe in my players and have confidence in them, they will come back from this game, it’s not a decisive game,” said Berube, whose side host Fordham on November 16. , then play in Buffalo on Nov. 19.
“It’s going to make us better. They’re frustrated, they’re competitors. They want to win every game, that’s the mentality of every game. They’ve done a good job and we’ve got to turn the page quickly. At all No time to sulk.”
For her part, Stone believes Princeton will get better as the season unfolds.
“The group is really close and we get along really well,” Stone said. “On the basketball court, we’re finding each other more and more, we’re getting used to each other’s tendencies and working together. I think Things are improving for us. ”