Princeton takes out Missouri, latest 15-seed to make Sweet 16
Kyle BonaguraESPN Author4 minutes read
SACRAMENTO — No. 15 Princeton advanced into the Sweet 16 with a 78-63 win over No. 7 Missouri on Saturday, becoming the second Ivy League team to do so since the 1985 NCAA men’s basketball tournament 64 teams was expanded.
It is the third consecutive year that a No. 15 has risen from the tournament’s opening weekend and the fourth all-time.
It wasn’t a typical excitement either. The 15-point win was the most lopsided win by a 15th-seeded team in tournament history, and the Tigers almost completely controlled the game.
Princeton built a 14-point lead in the first half, only to slip to seven by halftime. But coach Mitch Henderson had seen enough there, too. He was confident that his team not only had what it took to play an entire game against the SEC opponent, but to win it.
“[At halftime] I said we’re definitely going to get on that flight tonight,” Henderson said. “When we get on that flight, we will be ourselves, and the best version of us can beat the best version of them. And they did it.”
Missouri, led by first-year head coach Dennis Gates, failed in its bid to make the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009.
“We were able to take the lead once,” Gates said. “We held the lead for 30 seconds throughout the game. Every time we went ahead or they went ahead, we cut it down to six, they came back and did what a good team would do : make a shot or make a game.”
Just two days after beating No. 2 Arizona, despite a poor shooting night, Princeton is establishing its strike against Missouri. Senior Ryan Langborg – who received no All-Ivy League honors – led all scorers with 22 points. He was effective from the outside, shooting 4 of 12 from 3 and making plays that went to the basket.
“He was the best player on the floor tonight and if you want to argue, I’m more than willing to argue with you,” Henderson said. “I mean he was great and he was great five games in a row.”
It was far from a one man show. Newcomer Blake Peters scored 17 points on 5 of 8 3-pointers, all in the second half. Star striker Tosan Evbuomwan, a native of England, drew the most attention and used that to create open shots for his team-mates.
“Tosan dies, you won’t see that in Princeton for 50 years,” Henderson said. “He’s a very unique passer. When he first came to us – it was the first week of training – it was like a bright, blinding light from heaven. It will definitely be a lot of fun.”
But even for Henderson, who made two first-round appearances as a player for Princeton (1996 and 1998), it would have been hard to expect such achievements. The 78 points they scored against Missouri was the most by a Princeton team in modern times in an NCAA tournament.
Princeton plays the winner of Sunday’s game between Creighton and Baylor in Louisville on March 24.