No. 15 seed Princeton stuns No. 2 seed Arizona in NCAA first round

March Madness is in peak form even before half of the first day of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament was finished.

No. 15 seed Princeton rocked the sports world on Thursday with a 59-55 upset of No. 2 seed Arizona in the first round of the South Regional in Sacramento, Calif.

The Tigers (22-9) scored the game’s final nine points to score its first NCAA tournament win in 25 years. Princeton’s last win came over UNLV in 1998 when coach Mitch Henderson was a player on the team. The last time the Tigers won as a double-digit seed came as the 13 seed in 1996 when they upset defending national champion UCLA.

This is the third straight season, and the 11th time overall, that a 15 seed has defeated a 2 seed with Saint Peter’s topping Kentucky in last year’s tournament to spark a run to the Elite Eight. Arizona becomes the first school to lose to a 15 seed twice, falling to Steve Nash and 15th-seeded Santa Clara in 1993.

Princeton advances to the second round where it will face seventh-seeded Missouri, a 76-65 winner over 10th-seeded Utah State, on Saturday.

Tosan Evbuomwan scored 15 points and added seven rebounds for the Ivy League champs.

“Pretty surreal feeling,” guard Matt Allocco said. “To beat a great team like that on this stage is a pretty special feeling. But also I can’t say I’m surprised. This team has been so good all year, so gritty. On paper, it’s going to look like a big upset. But we believe in each other and we think we’re a really good team. When we’re at our best, then I think we can beat anybody in the country.”

Azuolas Tubelis scored 22 points for Arizona (28-7), which led by 12 points with 11:50 remaining in the game. Tubelis’ layup with 4:45 left gave the Pac-12 tournament champion Wildcats a 55-50 lead, but they never scored again.

Ryan Langborg’s layup gave the Tigers the lead for good at 56-55 with 2:03 remaining. Cade Pierce made two free throws to make it, 58-55, with 21 seconds left. Courtney Ramey and Kerr Kriisa missed 3-pointers before Evbuomwan made a free throw with three seconds left to ice it.

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

With Daily News Wire Services