NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Bella Alarie provided an offensive spark and Princeton locked down defensively in the fourth quarter to win the Ivy League Tournament for the second straight year.
Alarie scored 25 points, Gabrielle Rush added 18 and the Tigers held Penn to one basket in the fourth quarter of a 65-54 win Sunday that clinched the conference's automatic bid to the NCAAs.
"I don't know if it was anything tactical, we just wanted it so badly," Rush said of the fourth quarter defense. "We knew what was going to hurt us. We locked down. That's what it came down to. We held them to one basket in the fourth quarter. They are a great team, very hard to stop. I think that was a testament to us not just being a good offensive team."
With the game tied at 51, Princeton (22-9) scored 15 of the final 18 points, holding Penn without a basket for the final 6:28 of the game. Rush's layup got the game-changing run started and Julia Cunningham hit a 3-pointer with 2:19 left to make it 58-52.
Penn could get no closer the rest of the way as the Quakers missed their final eight shots.
"They did a heck of a job," Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said. "We lost our flow a little bit. We were better when we were a little in transition until the last eight minutes. ... It was a flow, the tempo changed a little bit. I give them credit, they really locked down."
The Tigers ran out the final few seconds before celebrating in front of their bench as the clock ran out before celebrating their NCAA bid. Alarie, who was honored as the tournament MVP, had an impromptu dance-party with the Princeton band as confetti covered Yale's court.
This was the third straight year that these two teams met for the Ivy League title. They split the first two meetings.
Ashley Russell scored 14 points to lead Penn (23-6).
The Tigers trailed by seven in the third quarter before closing to within three at the end of the period. They scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to take their first lead since early in the third period on Alarie's layup that made it 49-47.
Princeton built a 23-17 lead early in the second quarter before Penn clamped down defensively. The Quakers held the Tigers scoreless for nearly six minutes and scored nine straight points to start a 14-4 run. Penn was up 31-27 and could have held the ball for the final possession of the half, but Princess Aghayere was called for an offensive foul with nine seconds left. Rush then made a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to get the Tigers within 31-30 at the break.
"Princess saw something to get to the basket. They broke our back with a 3 at the end," McLaughlin said. "Momentum is a big thing. If you would take that off the board and the way we started the second half it would have gave us some space."
Alarie, who won the conference's player of the year award for the second time this year as a junior, had 17 of Princeton's points in the first half.
NOT DEBATABLE: During the fourth quarter the NCAA revealed its final eight teams for the tournament. Princeton was one of those schools listed, but after the victory over Penn have clinched an automatic berth.
The Tigers were happy not to leave their tournament fate up to the selection committee.
"I heard rumors of that," Alarie said of being among the final eight. "This matters so much to us. We're co-champions of the regular season. .. We deserved that ticket. This is how we wanted to get to the tournament, win the Ivy League Tournament. We didn't want an at-large."
The Ivy League announced it's rotating the conference tournament, going to the other six schools that haven't hosted yet over the next six years. Harvard will host the 2020 tournament. ... The two teams split their regular season matchups, winning on the opponents' home court.
Penn: Awaits postseason tournament bid.
Princeton: Awaits NCAA Tournament seeding.