No. 15 seed Princeton stunned Missouri to reach the Sweet 16

Blake Peters hit five 3-pointers in the second half and No. 15 seed Princeton shocked another conference team to reach the NCAA Tournament regional semifinals for the first time in 56 years with a 78-63 victory over No. 7 seed Missouri on Saturday.

As the clock ticked down to the final minute, Princeton fans began chanting “Sweet 16! Sweet 16!” and coach Mitch Henderson cleared the bench with an easy win.

This upset was no ordinary high school fluke against a more established team. It was a completely dominant performance that sent Princeton to a place it hadn’t been in more than half a century.

Princeton vs. Missouri
Toson Eubuomwan #20, Ryan Langberg #3, Kayden Pierce #12 and Keeshon Kelman #32 of the Princeton Tigers react during the game against the Missouri Tigers in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Golden 1 Center on March 18, 2023 in Sacramento, California.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

“The world is looking at us as two upsets,” said forward Thoson Eubuomwan. “But I feel like we should be here. We trust each other a lot because we do. There’s definitely no stopping this group.”

Princeton (23-8) followed up its first-round win over Pac-12 tournament champion Arizona with a straight-set victory over Missouri (25-10) of the Southeastern Conference.

The Ivy League school, known for intimidating and occasionally disappointing a generation ago, advanced to the round of 16 for the first time since 1967, when only 23 teams entered the tournament.

“I have no words for you,” Peters said. “We have such an incredible section (of fans). I have the best teammates in the world. I love each and every one of them. If we go out and believe in each other, anything is possible. I know it’s a cliché, but anything is possible.’

Princeton will play the winner of Sunday’s game between Baylor and Creighton in the Sweet 16 in Louisville, Kentucky, on Friday night.

The Tigers will become the second Ivy League school to reach the Sweet 16 in the last 43 tournaments, joining Cornell in 2010. No team from the academically prestigious league that does not offer athletic scholarships has advanced since Penn reached the Final Four in 1979. .

“It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the tournament,” said Henderson, a player on the 1996 and 1998 Princeton teams that won first-round games. “As a player, I was in the second round several times. Never got further.”

It’s the third straight year a No. 15 seed has advanced to the Sweet 16, following Oral Roberts in 2021 and fellow New Jersey native St. Peter’s last year. The only other time a No. 15 seed has made it this far was Florida Gulf Coast in 2013.

Ryan Langborg led Princeton with 22 points, while Peters added 17.

DeAndre Gholston scored 19 points and Noah Carter added 14 for Missouri, which was looking for its first Sweet 16 berth since 2009.

“We were able to take the lead one time,” coach Dennis Gates said. “We held the lead for 30 seconds the whole game. Every time we had a lead or they had a lead, we cut it to six, they came back and did what a good team would do: punt or make a play.”

Princeton showed no signs of being outmatched against another powerhouse conference team, controlling the game from the start. Midway through the half, Keeshon Kellman had two dunks and a blocked shot in 16 seconds.

Princeton extended its lead to 10 points on a 3-pointer by Zach Martini and went up 33-19 on a drive by Eubuamwan.

Missouri responded by scoring the final seven points of the half to go into halftime.

Every time Missouri threatened early in the second half, Princeton answered as Peters hit five 3-pointers. The fourth gave Princeton a 62-43 lead, and Missouri never threatened after that.

“Blake Peters has been making shots off the bench for weeks,” Henderson said. “This is a very, very confident group. We’re excited to go to the Sweet 16. It’s an absolute pleasure to be around these guys. They just grind their teeth and do it.”

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