JJ Quinerly scores 29 as West Virginia eliminates Princeton 63-53

West Virginia guard Jordan Harrison (10) shoots past Princeton forward Ellie Mitchell (00) in the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 23, 2024, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Matthew Putney)

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — JJ Quinerly scored 29 points as West Virginia defeated Princeton 63-53 in a women’s NCAA Tournament first-round game on Saturday.

Quinerly, who was 10 of 19 from the field, scored West Virginia’s first 12 points of the fourth quarter as the eighth-seeded Mountaineers (25-7) pulled away from the No. 9 seed Tigers to advance to Monday’s Albany 2 Regional second-round game against No. 1 seed Iowa.

West Virginia ended Princeton’s five-game winning streak by rallying in the second half as its pressure defense disrupted the Tigers.

West Virginia led 42-35 early in the fourth quarter when Quinerly took over, hitting four field goals and going 4 of 4 in free throws over a 6 ½-minute stretch to keep Princeton from coming back.

“JJ was special again,” West Virginia coach Mark Kellogg said. “She has been all year, and I hope people around the country are starting to realize how talented she is.”

Quinerly, who played all 40 minutes, looked frustrated when she missed a late free throw that would have gotten her to the 30-point mark.

“I was mad. I was missing a whole bunch of free throws,” said Quinerly, who was 8 of 12 in free throws.

Kellogg said Quinerly usually gets a little break in the game, but because of some early foul trouble in the backcourt had to keep her in the game. He knew, though, that Quinerly could give him a full game.

“She has a motor,” Kellogg said. “She’s a highly conditioned athlete and an elite scorer. She’s done it before. She’s conditioned enough to do it.”

Princeton (25-5), the Ivy League champion making its fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, led the entire first half despite shooting 34.4% from the field. The Tigers had a 24-12 edge in rebounding, and Kaitlyn Chen had 11 of their points. Princeton led by as much as nine points, but West Virginia got to within 26-24 at halftime on Jordan Harrison’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

“We went in at halftime and coach said, ‘That’s not us. Our defense is way better than that,'” Quinerly said. “So we just picked it up.”

“We had 20 minutes left to either give it our all or go home,” Harrison said. “So we just went back to what we had been doing all season. Got some deflections, started slowing them down, and start playing in transition like we always do, and have been doing all year.”

West Virginia’s pressure defense began wearing down the Tigers, who had 10 turnovers in the first 5 1/2 minutes of the third quarter to help start a 13-0 run by the Mountaineers. West Virginia outscored Princeton 18-7 in the quarter.

“I thought they were really aggressive, really came at us, especially in that second quarter,” Princeton coach Carla Berube said. “But I felt that was a big, big turning point.”

West Virginia shot 52.5% for the game, but 64.7% in the second half, including making 5 of their 6 shots in the fourth quarter. Princeton shot just 33% for the game, 30% in the second half.

“I think in the first half we took care of the ball really well and we were able to get into our stuff well,” Chen said. “They came out with that 1-2-2 (pressure defense) in the third quarter and that put a little more pressure on us. We got all angsty with the ball.”

Harrison had 15 points, and Kylee Blacksten had 10 points for the Mountaineers.

Madison St. Rose had 22 points to lead Princeton. Chen had 17.

Princeton had a 34-28 rebounding edge, with Ellie Mitchell getting 15 rebounds.

“It stings,” Berube said. “I didn’t think our season would be over tonight. But that’s basketball. Things happen.”


West Virginia: Plays top seed Iowa in the second round on Monday.


AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness