No. 15 seed Princeton emphatically took another magical step in the NCAA Tournament as Ryan Langborg scored 22 points to help the Tigers advance to their first Sweet 16 by smothering seventh-seeded Missouri 78-63 on Saturday in Sacramento, Calif.
Princeton (23-8) becomes the third 15th seed — and second in the past two years — to reach the Sweet 16. The others are Florida Gulf Coast (2013) and Saint Peter’s (2022). Saint Peter’s is the only No. 15 seed to make it all the way to a regional final.
“This is awesome for our school,” Princeton coach Mitch Henderson said. “The Sweet 16 means a lot to our program. This is really special. These guys come here to win. It’s the best school in the country and they feel good about representing their school.
“We’re so thrilled to be here, but not surprised.”
The Ivy League tournament champions made this game a no-drama affair for the final 10 minutes, essentially using the same formula that led to a 59-55 first-round stunner of second-seeded Arizona.
On Saturday, the Tigers outrebounded Missouri 44-30, had a 19-2 edge in second-chance points, and effectively slowed down the game by limiting transition opportunities, allowing just seven fast-break points.
The difference Saturday was that Princeton also was hitting shots from distance. The Tigers were 4 of 25 from 3-point range on Thursday, but Blake Peters came off the bench and had more makes all by himself just in the second half. He was 5 of 8 from behind the arc and scored all 17 of his points after halftime.
“He was unbelievable,” Henderson said. “They went to the zone, gave us a different look, and then Blake happened. He’s been doing that all year. He’s absolutely fearless.”
Tosan Evbuomwan contributed nine points, nine rebounds and five assists for Princeton. Freshman Caden Pierce had a career-high 16 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end. Matt Allocco had 10 points to go with seven assists.
DeAndre Gholston led Missouri (25-10) with 19 points. Noah Carter added 14, while Kobe Brown posted 12 points and seven boards. Missouri’s only lead was at 3-2.
Missouri was intent on getting the ball down low to Brown to start the second half, but Princeton blocked him twice in the lane, helping fuel a 7-0 run that expanded a seven-point halftime lead to 40-28.
When Missouri chipped away and got within 43-37, Peters was the answer. He drained three 3-pointers in a span of 2:40, the last capping a game-defining 10-0 run for a 56-39 lead at the 8:01 mark. The lead eventually grew to 21.
“I have the best teammates in the world. I love each and every one of them,” Peters said. “We go out and believe in each other. I mean, anything is possible. I know it’s cliche, but anything is possible!”
Langborg hit three 3-pointers in the first six minutes, and he had scored 11 by the time Princeton opened its first double-digit lead at 24-14 with 7:25 to go in the first half. Princeton extended the advantage to 14 points but Missouri closed the gap with a finishing 7-0 run that included Sean East II’s floater at the buzzer to make it 33-26.
Princeton, which will play the winner of Sunday’s game between No. 3 Baylor and No. 6 Creighton, is the second Ivy League team to make the Sweet 16 since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The other is Cornell in 2010.
–Field Level Media