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Men’s basketball prevails in overtime thriller against Dartmouth

First-year forward Caden Pierce posted career-highs in both points and rebounds

Caden Pierce Dartmouth
First-year forward Caden Pierce has started in all 19 games for men’s basketball this year.
Courtesy of @PrincetonMBB/Twitter.

On Saturday afternoon, the Princeton men’s basketball team (14–5 overall, 5–1 Ivy League) recorded a thrilling 93–90 overtime victory over the Dartmouth Big Green (7–13, 3–3). 

“You have to steal a couple games if you’re gonna have a good season, [and] we totally stole that one,” head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 said in a press conference after the game.


“I think you win that game once out of a hundred times. We were fortunate,” Henderson added.

Throughout the game, the score remained close with neither team ever holding a double-digit lead. For those who watched the two teams face off in February of last year when the Tigers thrashed the Big Green by a score of 85–40, the tightness of this year’s matchup may have been surprising.

According to Henderson, the stark difference in results is indicative of a particularly competitive Ivy League field. With this win and a loss against Cornell, the Tigers are now alone atop the Ivy League standings. At the same time, all but two Ivy teams have at least three wins through the first six games.

“It feels like the closest group of teams I’ve ever seen,” Henderson said.

First-year forward Caden Pierce led the way for Princeton with career-highs in both points and rebounds, with 17 and 13, respectively. His play earned him his second Ivy League Rookie of the Week honor of the year.

Pierce helped the Tigers take a three-point lead into halftime with his aggressiveness on offense. He paced the squad for the half with 10 points on six attempts, five of which were from beyond the arc.


“I’m building more confidence each and every game. My teammates continue to trust me, if I do pass [a shot] up they let me hear it,” Pierce said at the postgame press conference. 

“He’s good at the things that take you a long time to learn how to do already,” Henderson said, referring to Pierce’s rebounding and defense. 

But Henderson was pleased with Pierce’s creativity on offense against Dartmouth, too. 

“We want him to try the things that are a little more fun to do, and I thought tonight he did. He put the ball on the floor and scored around the basket in really nice ways,” Henderson said. 

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While the Big Green held the lead for the majority of the second half, the Tigers remained within striking distance. A three-pointer from Big Green forward Brandon Mitchell-Day gave Dartmouth a five-point lead with two minutes remaining in regulation. 

Princeton senior forward Keeshawn Kellman cut Dartmouth’s lead to four at the free-throw line with 1:10 remaining, and on the ensuing inbounds pass, Pierce tracked and stole the ball. He then swung a pass inside to senior forward Tosan Evbuomwan who found junior guard Matt Allocco on the right wing for an open three-pointer, bringing the Tigers within one with just 1:04 left in regulation.

“Coach always says no matter what the score is, we’re always winning the game,” Pierce said. “I just thought I needed to step up and make a play down the stretch to help the team win.”

The Tigers forced a Dartmouth miss on the ensuing possession, but as Allocco led the ensuing fastbreak, he was called for an offensive foul.

Big Green guard Ryan Cornish then brought the ball up for Dartmouth with 31.4 seconds remaining and a one-point lead. Cornish had been having his way with the Tiger defense all game, posting a career-high 31 points to lead all scorers.

“I think [Cornish is] a terrific player,” Henderson said. “We gave him everything we had, and he was just easy.”

But with the game on the line, it was senior captain Ryan Langborg who stole Cornish’s pass and kept the Tigers in the game.

With Langborg leading the Tigers in transition, the ball ended up in the hands of Evbuomwan, who committed yet another offensive foul as he drove to the basket with just 10.4 seconds remaining.

The Tigers needed yet another huge play to keep them in the game. 

First-year guard Xaivian Lee stole the ensuing inbounds pass, forcing the third-straight turnover for the Big Green. 

“We’ve had five or six possessions in the league that got us a win,” Henderson said. “[Lee’s steal] was one of those plays.”

Lee then tried to get the ball to Langborg, but the ball was knocked out of play by a Dartmouth player. The Tigers inbounded from the sideline with just 7.5 seconds remaining. Once again, the ball would reach Evbuomwan. This time, though, he drew a defensive foul on his drive to the basket.

Evbuomwan was awarded two free throws; he missed the first and made the second, forcing the game into overtime with the teams knotted at 76–76.

“It was a crazy end, there was a lot of energy all around,” Kellman said. “There were a bunch of turnovers and foul calls that could have gone either way, but it allowed us to just keep playing hard and build up some momentum going into overtime.”

Overtime remained back-and-forth, but two free throws from Pierce with 16.3 seconds remaining gave the Tigers a four-point lead that they would ride to the final whistle. Princeton won the game 93–90.

The Tigers will head to New Haven on Jan. 28 to face off with the Yale Bulldogs (13–6, 3–3) with a chance to improve to 6–1 in conference play halfway through the Ivy schedule.

Diego Uribe is a contributor to the Sports and News sections at the 'Prince.’ Please direct any corrections requests to corrections[at]