Tiger Kings: The unpopular Princeton defeats Arizona in an epic NCAA tournament

Mitch Hendersons victory jump What underscored Princeton’s famous excitement about UCLA in 1996 has become an iconic moment. There is an image of the joyous leap at the school’s practice facility that serves as a constant reminder of what is possible.

Now Henderson’s current players have penned their own.

Related: March Madness: Tiny Furman stuns Virginia in first appearance since 1980

Ryan Langborg lifted Princeton to their first lead with 2:03 to play, and the Tigers used a late-game run to earn their first NCAA tournament win in 25 years by leading Arizona 59-55 and No. 2 Left Joe Biden’s brace in tatters.

“Pretty surreal feeling,” security guard Matt Allocco said. “Beating such a great team on this stage is a very special feeling. But I can’t say I’m surprised either. This team has been so good all year, so tough. On paper it will look like a big surprise. But we believe in each other and we think we’re a really good team. If we’re at our best then I think we can beat anyone in the country.”

The 15th-seeded Tigers (22-9) scored the last nine points and kept the Pac-12 tournament champions scoreless in the finals by 4:43. Arizona’s 55 points scored when the buzzer sounded was a season low.

The shock result left players’ brackets nationwide in shambles, none more notable than Biden, who picked Arizona as the tournament winner when sharing his predictions early Thursday.

Tosan Evbuomwan scored 15 points in Princeton’s first tournament win since defeating UNLV in 1998 when Henderson was a player for the Tigers.

Henderson also played on the 1996 team that defeated defending champions UCLA in the school’s final tournament under coach Pete Carril, who died in August. That win came fittingly in Sacramento, where Carril spent time as an NBA assistant after retiring as the Tigers coach.

“He would be very proud of the group,” Henderson said. “He wouldn’t want any attention other than what these guys did. They played to win. We knew we had to hold the game with little possession.”

The Princeton Tigers celebrate their NCAA tournament win over the Arizona Wildcats in Sacramento on Thursday. Photo: Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports

Princeton advanced to play seventh-ranked Missouri in the Southern Region in the second round. The Tigers beat Utah State 76-65.

Azuolas Tubelis scored 21 points for the Wildcats (28-7), who have not won a tournament game in consecutive years since 2014-15.

It was the third year in a row and the 11th time overall that a No. 15 had won a first round game. Arizona is the only school to come off the wrong end of one of these upsets twice, also losing to Steve Nash and Santa Clara in 1993.

Only one No. 16 has ever beaten a No. 1: the University of Maryland-Baltimore County shocked Virginia in 2018.

“If you want to be a great player, you want to be a great coach, we all have to learn from that,” said coach Tommy Lloyd. “We have to go back and find out what happened and understand the value of being 10-12 points with 10 minutes left, putting the hammer on people and not letting people get back in the game.”

The Wildcats looked to have that under control as Oumar Ballo’s basket took them to 10 with eight minutes remaining.

But the Tigers responded with seven straight points, topped by a three-pointer of the second chance by Blake Peters, who made it 51-48 with about six minutes left.

They finished the game on a 9-0 run, just like their most memorable tournament win against UCLA in 1996.

Tosan Evbuomwan

Tosan Evbuomwan (right) scored 15 points in Princeton’s first tournament win since defeating UNLV in 1998. Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Keeshawn Kellman started the sprint with a putback dunk before Langborg hit a jumper and then a layup to give the Tigers the lead.

The Wildcats then missed all five shots on the stretch and Princeton put them away at the foul line. Langborg also blocked Courtney Ramey’s shot with 50 seconds remaining and the Tigers defended a one-point lead.

“When I blocked it, I saw the whole crowd erupt,” he said. “My teammates were all connected and it was kind of a moment where you were like, ‘Wow, we can really do this. We will do this and nothing will stop us.’”

Ramey, who hit a game-winning shot in the Pac-12 tournament, missed a contested three with 14 seconds left that could have leveled the game. Kerr Kriisa also missed from long range after an offensive rebound and sent Princeton into an early celebration.

Source : news.yahoo.com

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