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March Madness: No. 11 Princeton shocks surging sleeper favorite No. 6 Kentucky

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It was Kentucky that was expected to pull more upsets in March at the women's NCAA tournament. Instead, it's on the wrong end of it out of the gate.

No. 11 Princeton, the Ivy League champions, shocked No. 6 Kentucky, 69-62, in the first round of the Bridgeport region on Saturday. The Tigers are on an 18-game win streak and will face No. 3 Indiana on Monday.

It is only the second NCAA tournament win for Princeton (25-4). It is the second No. 11 seed to win Saturday and join a handful of first-round upsets on the women's side.

Kentucky upset three ranked opponents en route to the SEC championship comeback victory against South Carolina, the No. 1 ranked team all season. The Wildcats (19-12) were one of the hottest teams in the field and a sleeper favorite to advance to the second weekend.

Princeton controls upset win

Princeton guards Abby Meyers and Kaitlyn Chen combined for 46 points on a hot shooting day for the Tigers. They were a collective 49.1% from the field and worked predominately inside the arc for more than 80% of their points.

Meyers, the unanimous selection for Ivy League Player of the Year, scored a game-high 29 hitting 9 of 21 shots and hit two of the team's three 3-pointers. She was 9-of-11 from the free-throw line and added five rebounds.

Chen had a better shooting day going 8-for-15 for 17 points and she added two assists, two steals and four rebounds. Ellie Mitchell had a team-high eight rebounds as the Tigers won on the boards, 37-30. Julia Cunningham had two blocks in the span of one minute late in the first quarter that led to baskets by Meyers and Chen to go up four. Princeton never relinquished the lead after that.

Princeton led by as many as nine points in the first half and had the 32-26 advantage at halftime. The Tigers are 22-0 when leading at the break. They were off last season because the Ivy League canceled its winter season over COVID-19 concerns. They're one of the best in the nation on defense, allowing on average 50.9 points and keeping teams to 34.9% from the field.

BLOOMINGTON, IN - MARCH 19: Princeton Tiger Lexi Weger is enthusiastic about the game during the first round of the 2022 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament held at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on March 19, 2022 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Kelly Donoho/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
BLOOMINGTON, IN - MARCH 19: Princeton Tiger Lexi Weger is enthusiastic about the game during the first round of the 2022 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament held at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on March 19, 2022 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Kelly Donoho/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Kentucky takes upset instead of handing one out

Kentucky led only briefly in the first quarter for a total of 2:30 of game time, per the ESPN broadcast. It attempted to claw its way back as the Wildcats got fired up in the fourth. But it was too late as Princeton stayed hot.

The large knock against WNBA prospect Rhyne Howard is that she doesn't show up in big games. She led Kentucky with 17 points shooting 4-of-14, both falling below season averages of 20.6 points and 44% shooting. The senior hit all seven free throws and added eight rebounds.

Dre'Una Edwards had a 15-point, 12-rebound double-double off the bench and Jada Walker chipped in 11 points on a team-best 4-of-8 day from the field. The Wildcats shot 35.7% from the field and were 4-of-15 from 3-point range.

Kentucky is the first school to see its women's and men's teams lose their opening round games against a double-digit seed since Florida in 2002. The men's program lost to No. 15 Saint Peter's on Thursday in the first day of the men's tournament.

The Wildcats were out of the NCAA tournament field a month ago, but became March darlings by winning the SEC tournament. They knocked off ranked opponents LSU, Tennessee and No. 1 overall tournament seed South Carolina in the SEC tournament. LSU is the 3-seed in the Spokane regional and Tennessee the 4-seed in Wichita.

Their upside was strong and they were upset favorites in many people's brackets, including Candace Parker's where they made the Final Four. Now they're one of the first set out.