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No. 15 seed Princeton stuns Missouri to reach Sweet 16

Blake Peters scored five 3-pointers in the second half and No. 15-seeded Princeton shocked another power conference team to reach the NCAA Tournament regional semifinals for the first time in 56 years by beating the No. 7 seed Missouri 78-63 on Saturday.

As the last minute ticked away, Princeton fans began chanting “Sweet 16! Sweet 16!” and coach Mitch Henderson cleared the bench with victory easily in hand.

This upset was no fluke of a small school against a more heralded team. It was a completely dominating performance that sent Princeton to a place it hadn’t been in over half a century.

Princeton vs. Missouri
Tosan Evbuomwan #20, Ryan Langborg #3 and Caden Pierce #12, and Keesawn Kellman #32 of the Princeton Tigers react against the Missouri Tigers in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Golden 1 Center on March 18 2023 in Sacramento, CA.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

“The world sees us as two upset people,” said striker Tosan Evbuomwan. “But I feel like we’re meant to be here. We have a lot of faith in each other, which we do. There’s definitely no respite with this group.”

Princeton (23-8) followed a first-round win over Pac-12 Tournament champion Arizona by crushing Southeastern Conference Missouri (25-10) early on.

The Ivy League school, known for scaring powerhouses and sometimes causing upheaval a generation ago, reached the knockout stages for the first time since 1967, when just 23 teams even entered the tournament.

“I have no words for you,” Peters said. “We have such an amazing section (of fans) here. I have the best teammates in the world. I love all of them. When we go out and believe in each other, anything is possible. I know it’s cliche, but anything is possible.”

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

The Tigers will be the second Ivy League school to make the Sweet 16 in the past 43 tournaments, joining Cornell in 2010. No team in the prestigious academy league that doesn’t award athletic scholarships has gone further since that Penn made the Final Four in 1979. .

“It’s always been a dream of mine to play deep in the tournament,” said Henderson, a player on the 1996 and 1998 Princeton squads who won first-round matches. “As a player, I reached the second round a few times. I never got past it.”

This is the third straight year that a 15th-ranked team has qualified for the Sweet 16, following Oral Roberts in 2021 and fellow New Jersey school Saint Peter’s last year. The only other time a 15 seed has come this far came in 2013, when the Gulf Coast of Florida did.

Ryan Langborg led Princeton with 22 points and Peters added 17.

DeAndre Gholston scored 19 points and Noah Carter added 14 for Missouri, which was seeking its first spot in the Sweet 16 since 2009.

“We managed to take the lead once,” coach Dennis Gates said. “We held the lead for 30 seconds the whole game. Every time we took the lead or when they had the lead we cut it down to six, they came back and did what a good team would do. : make a shot or make a coin.”

Princeton showed no signs of being outclassed against another power conference team, controlling the game from the start. Keesawn Kellman had two dunks and a blocked shot in 16 seconds midway through the half.

Princeton built the lead to 10 points on a corner 3 from Zach Martini and took a 33-19 lead on a drive from Evbuomwan.

Missouri responded by scoring the final seven points of the half to enter the all-seven split.

Every time Missouri threatened early in the second half, Princeton had a response with Peters hitting five 3-pointers. The fourth gave Princeton a 62-43 lead and Missouri never threatened afterward.

“Blake Peters has been shooting from the bench for us for weeks,” Henderson said. “It’s a very, very confident group. We’re so excited to go to Sweet 16. It’s an absolute pleasure to be with these guys. They grit their teeth and they do it.”


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