【N.J】 Princeton men’s basketball beats Yale in Ivy final to earn 26th NCAA Tournament bid – – – New Jersey News

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PRINCETON —Mitch Henderson sees the banners each and every time he walks into Jadwin Gymnasium.

How could he not?

He thinks about them. He’s helped hang more than one of them.

For a program steeped in history, one with 25 NCAA Tournament appearances to its name, it felt like this had to be the moment to write the next chapter.

The Princeton men’s basketball team was on its home floor, backed by 3,607 roaring fans rooting for a first NCAA bid since that undefeated 2016-17 Ivy League campaign.

Wait no longer.

Break out the dancing shoes.

Tosan Evbuomwan scored 21 points, Caden Pierce had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds and second-seeded Princeton beat top-seeded Yale, 74-65, in the Ivy League final on Sunday afternoon to earn a 26th trip to the NCAA Tournament.

“You want to put a good team on the floor, especially when you are an alum,” Henderson said. “It’s the best thing to do, it’s one of the coolest things in sports. A lot of people who were here today have played in that tournament and are used to watching us play in that tournament.”

To punch this ticket to the dance, the Tigers had to get past an opponent it never seems to beat. Yale had won 10 of the last 11 meetings, including the Ivy final a season ago and a season sweep this year that culminated with a stunning 18-point rally here in February.

All of that was weighing on the Princeton players.

“You don’t really stop thinking about that, losing in the final and being so close, and it being taken away,” Evbuomwan said. “That’s been kind of what you try and lock in on throughout the year when tough times or whatever it may be. Having an opportunity to do this is unreal.”

The Tigers played the far more physical semifinal on Saturday — a 77-70 victory over Penn — but showed little wear and tear from that as they stormed out of the gates with the game’s first 12 points.

That set the tone as Princeton led for all but 57 seconds late in the first half.

“We kind of huddled up before the game and we’re like let’s get off to a good start here, string together stops and we’ll get good shots,” Evbuomwan said. “We executed all game and it really started in the first four minutes. We got ourselves off to a great start and that set the tone for the game.”

Matt Allocco finished with 15 points and Ryan Langborg added 14. Allocco knocked down a mid-range shot that gave the Tigers (21-8) a five-point lead after the Bulldogs had sliced an eight-point deficit to three. Princeton then got a defensive stop and Pierce — the Ivy Rookie of the Year and a star in the making — converted two free throws after he hauled in an offensive rebound.

Bez Mbeng scored 18 points and Matt Knowling had 14 for Yale (21-8), but the biggest difference between the this and the two regular-season meetings was the job the Tigers did on John Poulakidas.

The Bulldogs’ guard lit up Princeton for 24.5 points on 56.2% shooting and 75% on 3-pointers in the two games.  The Tigers put the 6-foot-8 Evbuomwan on him and Poulakidas attempted just one shot in the first half and finished with seven points on 2-for-7 shooting.

“We all locked in on him as a team,” said Evbuomwan, who showed his defensive versatility by chasing Poulakidas around picks and fighting over ball screens. “I think it’s just team defense, and that’s what it’s been all season. It’s never one guy’s job and guys are always in there helping one another. I know I have a lot of confidence in guys helping behind me, so it gave me a lot of confidence to press up and take some his shots away.”

When Evbuomwan does that, it lifts the entire team.

“Everyone knows offensively Tosan is pretty special, but today, in particular, I thought he was unbelievable,” Allocco said. “When he plays like that, he’s the best player in this league on both ends. He just willed us, carried us there.”

But this was a total team effort. The Tigers wouldn’t have got to this game without Zach Martini coming off the bench for 12 points in the semifinals or the 6-foot-9, 240-pound Keeshawn Kellman stepping in to take a charge at an important juncture of both games.

There is now more basketball to be played.

“Which is the beauty of it,” Allocco said. “We’re not done yet. We’re happy to be in this position, but I don’t think we’re satisfied. Whoever we get matched up against, I’m expecting it to be a great game and we’re going to compete.”

That would make the late Pete Carril smile.

“So much of what I say is him regurgitated,” Henderson said. “A lot of this is honoring him. We’ve got a picture of him up in the rafters. He’d be very proud.”

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