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Princeton gets revenge on Yale, wins Ivy League title at home

One year after falling in the title game, the Tigers are dancing

NCAA Basketball: Princeton at Indiana
Tosan Evbuomwan led Princeton in scoring in both of its Ivy League Tournament games.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

March 13, 2022. Cambridge, Mass. Princeton is playing against Yale for a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament, and the Tigers have come back from down by as much as 11 to give themselves a chance to tie or take the lead in the final seconds of regulation.

Tosan Evbuomwan gives the ball back to Jaelin Llewellyn at the 3-point line and sets him a screen. As Llewellyn enters the paint, he’s swarmed by three Yale defenders, and he tries to pass the ball back to Evbuomwan. The ball hits off the back of the backboard and ricochets out of bounds, and the clock reads 0.8 seconds. Yale celebrates punching its ticket to the NCAA Tournament as Princeton heads to a long long offseason.

364 days later, the same two teams, albeit with a few different characters, are in the same spot, playing for a bid in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers’ stellar freshman class helped them defeat Penn 77-70 in a hard-fought, back-and-forth basketball game the day before, while Yale cruised past Cornell with a second-half surge.

The roles were reversed, instead of Princeton being the favorite. Yale was the favorite, but the twist this year, was that it was played on Princeton’s home floor, and the Tigers came out with the energy.

The scoreboard read 2-0 Princeton, then 4-0, 6-0, and after five minutes, the scoreboard read 12-0 Princeton. Basketball, however, is a game of runs, and Yale’s immediate 11-0 run cut the Princeton lead to one point before the second media timeout. The rest of the first half was played tightly between the teams. Neither one going ahead by more than five points for the final ten minutes of the first frame.

Caden Pierce, a member of that freshman class for Princeton, ended the first half with a 3-pointer from the wing at the buzzer, giving the Tigers a 33-29 lead.

After the semifinal win over Penn, Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson called Pierce “the best rebounder I’ve ever coached,” and he continued to bring it on the glass against Yale. Pierce had 22 rebounds between the two Ivy Madness games, helping the Tigers outrebound both of their opponents on the weekend.

Princeton jumped out to an 11-point lead in the second half, but Yale came back, starting their run when Pierce had to leave the game briefly in foul trouble. The Bulldogs though never came closer than three points, and Princeton, for the third straight game, finished strong against a really good opponent.

The game finished 74-65, and the Tigers had exorcised their demons from a year ago.

“You don’t really stop thinking about that, losing in the final and being so close, and it being taken away,” said Evbuomwan, who led the Tigers in scoring in both games this weekend. “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.”

Princeton will get an opportunity to upset a Pac-12 team, just like they did in 1996 when they shocked UCLA, as they’ll take on second-seeded Arizona in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday afternoon.

Yale’s terrific season isn’t quite over yet. It will travel to Nashville to take on a surging Vanderbilt team in the NIT Tuesday night.