Loss to Creighton in Sweet 16 does not define team
The Princeton Tigers mens basketball team capped a season to remember for players, coaches and fans.
The team’s March Madness run came to an end after a Sweet 16 matchup with the Creighton Bluejays.
Princeton Tigers faced off against Creighton in Louisville, Ky. at the KFC Yum! Center on March 24. When the final buzzer sounded, the team fell to the Bluejays with the score 86-75.
“We fought. That is a heck of a team. We fought all the way to the end but came up short,” Princeton Coach Mitch Henderson said. “[The loss] does not define us one bit. This is a very special group and I love being their coach.”
In the game, Princeton battled Creighton in the first half. The team led by three during the first half after Sophomore guard Blake Peters made a free throw to give the Tigers a 38-35 lead with 4:28 left in the half.
The Bluejays tied 38-38 with a 3-pointer and then extended their lead to seven with under a minute left to go in the half. Princeton countered back to cut the Bluejays’ lead to two points from a Peters 3-pointer with 32 seconds left in the half.
At the end of the half, Creighton went into the locker room with a four-point lead over Princeton, 47-43.
“I thought the last four minutes of the first half was crucial. Swinging their way and we could not get back into the game,” Henderson said, adding Creighton is well coached.
The Tigers could not close the score gap in the second half as Creighton extended its lead at one point to 16 with under 12:30 left to go in the game, 68-52.
Princeton fought its way to get the Bluejays’ lead back down to seven points following two made free throws from Senior forward Tosan Evbuomwan.
Creighton outrebounded Princeton 37-26 and shot 58% from the field and 37.5% from the 3-point line.
Princeton shot 46.2% from the field, 42.9% from the 3-point line, and only had five turnovers during the game.
Princeton was led by Senior guard Ryan Langborg with 26 points, three rebounds and two steals, and Evbuomwan had 24 points, six rebounds and nine assists.
This 2022-23 season for the Tigers [23-9, 10-4 Ivy League] resulted in a winning streak during Ivy Leage Conference play that continued and propelled the team to another Ivy League Tournament Championship, a first since 2017.
This was the team’s 26th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Wins over No. 2 Arizona and No. 7 Missouri led the team to the Sweet 15, a first since 1967.
“This is such a successful year and such a year of joy for our program. These guys have done something no one has ever done,” Henderson said. “There have been some great Princeton teams in the past, but this is a really special team.”
He added that the team was a work in progress all season.
“We really got to play our best basketball as of late,” Henderson said.
The team was the fourth 15-seed in the tournament to reach the Sweet 16.
They followed recent 15-seeds – Saint Peter’s Peacocks in 2022 and Oral Roberts University in 2021 – which made it three consecutive years that a 15th seed played in the Sweet 16.
No Ivy League school has made it to the Sweet 16 since Cornell Big Red’s March Madness run that reached the Sweet 16 in 2010.
Evbuomwan said the team’s style of selfless basketball play propelled the team in the NCAA Tournament and he will look back on this time with “pride.”
“We have very talented guys and we really gelled well together as a group. I’m just so proud of my team,” he said. “We’ve created great memories with one another, and I think that is what it is all about. I’m just very thankful to be in this position and be in this position with my teammates and coaching staff.”
Guard Ryan Langborg noted that Princeton would not be in the Sweet 16 without the fans, without Princeton University alums, and everyone who came out to support them.
“Every time we hit a couple shots, they are going nuts. It gives us all the confidence in the world,” he said. “I am very thankful for everyone who was supporting us.”
Langborg further said that he is super proud of [Tosan] and everyone else on the team that had led them to the point of playing in NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.
“I think we just got to celebrate it. Know it is something special and continue to enjoy this moment for the rest of our lives,” he added. “It has bonded us forever.”
This Princeton team will lose five seniors – Langborg, Evbuomwan, Guard Konrad Kiszka, and forwards Jacob O’Connell and Keeshawn Kellman.
“It is so rare to come across a group like this led by Ryan and Tosan, Keeshawn, Konrad and Jacob. They allowed us to coach them, which allowed us to coach the younger guys and let them develop,” Henderson said.
“I’m so proud of them. The school is so proud of them.”