Princeton guard Kaitlyn Chen (20) shoots over Indiana forward Mackenzie Holmes (54) in the first half of a college basketball game in the second round of the NCAA tournament in Bloomington, Ind., Monday, March 21, 2022. Chen was a top-scorer in the Tigers' win over the University of Maine on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. Credit: Michael Conroy / AP

ORONO, Maine — Princeton University had to work a lot harder for Friday night’s 65-51 win over the University of Maine’s women’s basketball team than it did a year ago when they pummeled the Black Bears in New Jersey by 39 points (82-43).

But the 4-2 Tigers showed why they have made nine NCAA Tournament appearances since 2010 by rattling off a 13-2 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to earn the hard-fought victory.

Junior guard Kaitlyn Chen, the Most Outstanding Player in the Ivy League Tournament last year, had 15 points, five assists, five rebounds and two steals for Princeton. Julia Cunningham, a first team All-Ivy choice last year, had 13 points and four assists and Grace Stone had 10 points, four rebounds and two steals.

Ellie Mitchell scored seven points, but the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year also had a game-high 12 rebounds and eight steals.

Madison St. Rose netted eight points and Paige Morton had seven.

Adrianna Smith’s 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists paced 3-5 UMaine. Caroline Bornemann had nine points and five rebounds, Paula Gallego had eight points, two assists and two steals and Sarah Talon finished with eight points, two assists and two steals.

Princeton scored the final eight points of the third period before Cunningham’s lefthanded runner to open the fourth period made it 47-35. 

During the 10-0 run, the Black Bears turned the ball over four times and missed their four field goal attempts. Windham freshman Talon’s layup off a Smith pass ended UMaine’s scoreless drought that spanned 6:52.

Princeton built a 54-39 lead with six minutes remaining, but the Black Bears reeled off seven straight points to pull within eight as baskets by Smith and Gallego sandwiched a 3-pointer by Olivia Rockwood with 4:30 left.

However, St. Rose got behind the Black Bear defense for an easy layup off a Chen pass and, seconds later, following another UMaine turnover, Chen hit a nice floater. UMaine turned the ball over three times during a game-clinching 10-2 run that included the Rose and Chen baskets.

“Maine was a really tough team,” Chen, the dynamic junior guard, said. “They run their offense really well. They’re very disciplined on offense.”

Princeton outscored UMaine 36-23 in the second half as the Black Bears turned the ball over 13 times.

“We fought hard in the first half, but we turned the ball too much in the second half,” said Smith, UMaine’s sophomore forward. It’s hard to win when you turn the ball over 13 times in a half.”

Maine coach Amy Vachon noted the turnovers and also pointed out that her team had a couple of 3-pointers that rattled out of the basket at important junctures in the second half. 

“They’re a really good team. They haven’t lost an Ivy League game in three years,” she said. “They’re a top 25 team.”

Carla Berube, Princeton’s coach, said she wanted her team to leverage its height advantage by taking the ball to the rim.

The Black Bears trailed by five in the first half but Bornemann scored seven consecutive Black Bear points, surrounding a 3-pointer by Chen, to pull the Black Bears within 27-26 in the waning moments of the half. 

St. Rose’s 15-foot jumper was answered by Smith’s banked-in baseline basket to close out the half as Princeton took a 29-28 lead into the intermission.

In last year’s game at Princeton, the Tigers coasted into the half with a 39-17 lead en route to the lopsided victory.

UMaine shot 44 percent from the floor (11-for-25) and 28.6 percent beyond the 3-point arc (2-for-7) compared to Princeton’s 42.9 percent (12-for-28) and 33.3 percent (3-for-9) from long distance, but the taller Tigers had a 16-14 edge in rebounds.