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No. 15 Princeton shocked No. 2 Arizona with a 59-55 first-round victory in the South region on Thursday.
Caden Pierce hit two free throws with 17 seconds to go up three and Tosan Evbuomwan made a free throw with three seconds left to ice the game for the Tigers. Courtney Ramey and Kerr Kriisa missed game-tying 3s for the Wildcats in between the trips to the line as Arizona was in the midst of an incredibly long scoring struggle.
It's the third consecutive year a No. 15 seed has knocked off a No. 2 seed in the men's NCAA tournament. Saint Peter's defeated Kentucky in 2022 during its improbable run to the Elite Eight and Oral Roberts defeated Ohio State in the 2021 tournament.
Ramey gave Arizona a 49-39 lead with 11 minutes to go in the game and it appeared the Wildcats could keep Princeton at bay for the win. That assumption was based on the belief that Arizona could continue to make baskets at a decent rate.
That didn’t happen. The Wildcats scored just six points in the final 11 minutes of the game and committed six turnovers. All three of the baskets in the final 11 minutes were layups. Arizona went cold from anywhere outside the lane and allowed Princeton to claw its way back into the game.
Princeton didn’t shoot the ball well either. The customary formula for an upset in the NCAA tournament is for the lower-seeded team to shoot well from 3. Princeton was just 4-of-25 from behind the arc. That fourth triple came from Blake Peters with 6:29 to go and cut Arizona’s lead to 51-48.
Princeton took the lead for the first time all game with 2:03 to go when Ryan Langborg scored on a drive to the basket. That basket was bookended by Arizona turnovers. Azuolas Tubelis was stripped to set up Langborg’s go-ahead two and then Kriisa turned it over after a jump ball.
Arizona had six chances to take the lead in the final two minutes. The Wildcats missed five shots and committed two turnovers.
While Princeton made just four 3s, Arizona made only three. The Wildcats were 3-of-16 from deep, meaning the two teams combined to shoot 7-of-41 from 3. Yet they both shot over 40% from the field overall thanks to their made baskets at the rim.
Princeton will play No. 7 seed Missouri on Saturday. The Tigers beat No. 10 Utah State to get the school’s first NCAA tournament win since 2010. The winner will advance to the Sweet 16.
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) March 16, 2023
Princeton has another signature upset
It was Princeton’s first NCAA tournament game since 2017 and its first win in the NCAA tournament since 1998 when it beat UNLV as a No. 5 seed.
Two years before that win over the Rebels, Princeton delivered one of the biggest moments in modern men’s tournament history with a 43-41 win as a No. 13 seed over No. 4 UCLA. The victory came in legendary coach Pete Carril’s final season with the team as the Tigers got a tournament win to cap off a career spanning four decades and 775 games.
This win is a bracket buster for the few people who had perfect brackets remaining in Yahoo’s Tourney Pick’Em. Thanks to upset wins by Princeton and Furman during Thursday’s first session of games, just 0.06% of users have gotten all of their NCAA tournament predictions correct.