Blake Peters made five 3-pointers in the second half and No. 15 seed Princeton stunned another power conference team to reach the regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 56 years, beating No. 7 seed Missouri 78-63 on Saturday.
As the clock wound down, Princeton fans chanted “Sweet 16! Sweet 16!” started chanting. And coach Mitch Henderson cleared the bench with an easy win.
This upset was no small-school fluke against a more hyped team. It was a thoroughly dominant performance that sent Princeton to a place it hadn’t been in more than half a century.
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“The world sees us as two underdogs,” forward Tosan Iwboomwan said. “But I think we’re supposed to be here. We have a lot of confidence in each other, what we’re doing. There’s definitely no exception with this group.”
Princeton (23-8) opened with a first-round win over Pac-12 Tournament champion Arizona after beating Missouri (25-10) of the Southeastern Conference.
The Ivy League school known for intimidating powerhouses a generation ago has reached the round of 16 for the first time since 1967, when only 23 teams participated in the tournament.
“I have no words for you,” Peters said. “We have such an incredible section (of fans) here. I have the best teammates in the world. I love every one of them. When we go out and believe in each other, anything is possible. I know it’s cliché, but anything is possible.”
Princeton will play the winner of Sunday’s game between Baylor and Creighton in the Sweet 16 in Louisville, Kentucky, on Friday night.
The Tigers will be the second Ivy League school in the last 43 tournaments to join Cornell in 2010. .
“I’ve always dreamed of playing deep in the tournament,” said Henderson, a player on Princeton teams that won first-round games in 1996 and ’98. “As a player, made it to the second round a few times. Never got past that.”
It marks the third straight year a 15th-seeded team has advanced to the Sweet 16, following fellow New Jersey school St. Peter in 2021 and Oral Roberts in 2021. A 15 seed made it when Florida Gulf Coast did it in 2013.
Ryan Langborg led Princeton with 22 points and Peters added 17 points.
DeAndre Gholston scored 19 points and Noah Carter added 14 for Missouri, which was looking for its first Sweet 16 berth since 2009.
“We were able to get the lead once,” coach Dennis Gates said. “The whole game we held the lead for 30 seconds. Every time we got the lead or they had the lead, we got down by six, they came back and did what a good team does: make a shot or make a play.”
Princeton showed no signs of being outclassed against another power conference team, controlling the game from the start. Keyshawn Kelman had two dunks and a blocked shot in a 16-second span midway through the half.
Princeton went ahead by 10 points on Jack Martini’s corner 3 and 33-19 on Yveboomwan’s drive.
Missouri scored the final seven points of the half to break down to seven.
Every time Missouri threatened early in the second half, Peters had Princeton’s answer, hitting five 3-pointers. The fourth gave Princeton a 62-43 lead and Missouri never threatened again.
“Blake Peters has been making shots off the bench for us for weeks,” Henderson said. “This is a very, very confident team. We’re thrilled to get to the Sweet 16. These guys are a joy to be around. They just grit their teeth and they do it.”