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How sweet it is.
As in Sweet 16.
Ryan Langborg scored 22 points, Blake Peters had 17 off the bench — all in the second half — and No. 15 seed Princeton beat No. 7 seed Missouri, 78-63, in a second-round NCAA Tournament game on Saturday night at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento to advance to the regional semifinals for the first time since 1967.
“It’s just an unreal feeling to do this with my guys and my teammates and the coaching staff,” said senior forward Tosan Evbuomwan, who finished with nine points, nine rebounds and five assists. “It’s been a few years in the making and we have such a close group, we love to work with each other, we love to push each other and it’s showing. It’s a group of really tough guys and it’s all coming together at the right time.”
The Tigers (23-8) will face the winner of the second-round game between No. 3 seed Baylor and No. 6 seed Creighton next week in Louisville. Princeton is the first Ivy League team to reach the Sweet 16 since Cornell in 2010.
“I’ve always dreamed of playing deep into the tournament,” coach Mitch Henderson said. “As a player, got to the second round a couple times and never got beyond on it. I feel like, for these guys, it’s unbelievable.”
Princeton 15-point margin of victory was the largest by a No. 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This is also the second straight season a No. 15 seed from New Jersey has made the Sweet 16 after Saint Peter’s went on that amazing run to the Elite Eight.
This is no fluke.
As it was in the first-round upset over Arizona, Princeton was the more physical team, the more composed team, and most importantly, the more confident team.
“The world looks at it as two upsets, but I keep feeling like we’re supposed to be here,” Evbuomwan said. “We have a lot of confidence in each other and what we’re doing. There’s definitely no let up with this group.”
Freshman Caden Pierce had eight points and a career-best 16 rebounds. Princeton out-rebounded Missouri, 44-30, including 16 offensive caroms that led to 19 second-chance points.
Princeton made eight of its 12 3s in the second half, including five off the right hand of Peters, who scorched Missouri as the SEC school tried to press in order to get back in the game. Princeton had a 13-2 run after Missouri got within six midway through the second half.
Missouri came into the game as a seven-point favorite after a victory over Utah State, but Princeton totally took away its two best players. After combing for 42 points in that first-round win Kobe Brown and D’Moi Hodge were held to 14. In fact, Brown got most of his after the game was already over.
“They keep their body in front of guys, good old-fashioned tough-nosed defense,” Henderson said. “It’s so hard to guard in our league. We saw a little bit of everything we saw the last two games in our league regularly. I know you guys say that’s Arizona and that’s Missouri, but for us it’s the same actions, just different players. You got to keep your body in front of them and contest shots.”
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