Princeton took on recent 15-seed Missouri to make the Sweet 16

Kyle BonacuraESPN staff writer2 minute reading

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Princeton advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 78-63 win over No. 7 Missouri on Saturday, becoming just the second Ivy League team since the men’s NCAA basketball tournament expanded to 64 teams. 1985.

The 15th seed has advanced from the tournament’s opening weekend, making it the third year in a row overall.

This is no ordinary grief either. The 15-point victory was the most by a No. 15 seed in tournament history, and the Tigers controlled the game nearly the entire way.

Princeton built a 14-point first-half lead that dwindled to seven at halftime. But even then, coach Mitch Henderson had seen enough. He believed his team just didn’t have what it took to play a full game against an SEC opponent, but prevailed.

“[At halftime] I said we’re going to get on that plane tonight no matter what,” Henderson said. “When we get on that plane, we’re going to be ourselves and the best version of us can beat the best version of them. And they did it.”

Missouri, led by first-year head coach Dennis Gates, failed to make the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009.

“We were able to take the lead one time,” Gates said. “We had a 30-second lead the whole game. Every time we got a lead or they got a lead, we cut it to six and they came back down and did what a good team should do: make a shot or make a play.”

Two days after beating No. 2 seed Arizona despite a poor shooting night, Princeton found its stroke against Missouri. Senior Ryan Langborg — who didn’t earn any All-Ivy League honors — led all scorers with 22 points. He was effective from the outside, shooting 4-of-12 from 3 and making plays to the basket.

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“He’s the best player on the floor tonight, and if you want to argue, I’m happy to argue with you,” Henderson said. “I mean, he’s been awesome, and he’s been awesome for five straight games.”

It was far from a one-man show. Freshman Blake Peters scored 17 points, shooting 5-of-8 on 3-pointers in the second half. England-born star forward Dawson Ewboomwan drew a lot of attention and used it to create open shots for his teammates.

“Dawson’s passing, you won’t see it again for 50 years at Princeton,” Henderson said. “He’s a very unique passer. When he first came to us — it was the first week of practice — it was like an amazing, blinding light from heaven. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

But even Henderson, who won two first-round games as a player for Princeton (1996 and 1998), would have expected this type of success. The Tigers’ 78 points against Missouri were the most points scored by a Princeton team in the NCAA Tournament in the modern era.

Princeton will play the winner of Sunday’s game between Creighton and Baylor on March 24 in Louisville, Kentucky.

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