No. 15 Princeton shocked No. 2 Arizona on Thursday in the South Regional with a 59-55 first-round win.
Caden Pierce hit two free throws with 17 seconds left to make it three and Tosan Ibuonwan hit a free throw with three seconds left to ice the game for the Tigers. Courtney Ramey and Kerr Krissa both missed game-tying threes between trips to the line for the Wildcats as Arizona was in the midst of an incredibly long scoring struggle.
This is the third year in a row that a No. 15 seed has defeated a No. 2 seed in the men’s NCAA tournament. St. Peter’s beat Kentucky during their improbable NCAA tournament run in 2022, and Oral Roberts beat 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. However, this assumption was based on the belief that Arizona could continue to make baskets at a reasonable rate.
It did not happen. The Wildcats scored just six points and committed six turnovers in the final 11 minutes of the game. All three baskets were layups in the final 11 minutes. Arizona went cold out of nowhere allowing Princeton to get back in the game.
Princeton also didn’t shoot the ball well. The customary formula for upsets in the NCAA tournament is for the lower-seeded team to shoot well from three. Princeton was just 4-of-25 from behind the arc. That fourth three came from Blake Peters with 6:29 remaining and cut Arizona’s lead to 51–48.
Princeton took the lead for the first time with 2:03 left in the entire game when Ryan Langborg scored on a drive to the basket. That basket was bookended by an Arizona turnover. Azuolas Tubelis was stripped to set up Langborg’s go-ahead two, and then Krissa turned the ball 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 threes, Arizona made only three. The Wildcats were 3-of-16 from deep, meaning the two teams combined to shoot just 7-of-41 from three. Yet they both shot over 40% overall thanks to the baskets they made at the rim.
Princeton will play No. 7 seed Missouri on Saturday. The Tigers defeated No. 10 Utah State to earn the school’s first NCAA tournament victory since 2010. The winner will advance to the Sweet 16.
Princeton Has Another Signature Upset
Thursday’s game was Princeton’s first NCAA tournament game since 2017 and their first win in the NCAA tournament since 1998 when it defeated UNLV as the No. 5 seed.
Two years before that victory over the Rebels, Princeton delivered one of the greatest moments in modern men’s tournament history with a 43–41 victory over No. 4 UCLA as the No. 13 seed. The victory came in veteran coach Pete Carril’s final season with the team as his team got a tournament victory to end a career that spanned four decades and 775 games.
The win is a literal bracket buster for the few people who had perfect brackets remaining in Yahoo’s tourney pick’em. Thanks to wins by Princeton and Furman during the first half of Thursday’s games, only 0.06% of users got all of their NCAA tournament predictions correct.