In a marquee matchup between two long-standing rivals, men’s basketball (14–6 overall, 5–2 Ivy League) seemed poised to steal a win on Yale’s home court. However, a rough patch for the Tigers in the second half gave space for a grand comeback for Yale (14–6, 4–3), which sent Princeton packing with an 87–65 loss. The 22-point difference makes for the worst loss of the season yet for the Tigers.
As a part of the Coaches vs. Cancer program, a collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), the coaching staff from both sides donned suits and sneakers during the game to participate in the #SuitUp initiative.
According to the American Cancer Society, “coaches and their staff across the nation wear sneakers with their suits during games to raise awareness, helping to save lives by raising funds and encouraging people to educate themselves about cancer prevention, screening, and early detection.”
Senior forward Tosan Evbuomwan took the lead for Princeton. First, he maneuvered his way into the paint for a layup that gave the Tigers their first bucket. Then, he showed off his playmaking with a bounce-pass dime to senior guard Ryan Langborg on a backdoor cut. Langborg scored an easy layup.
Five minutes into the game, the Tigers led 7–3, but the game remained close. The lead never extended past five points for either team, and there were over 10 lead changes in the first half alone. The back-and-forth battle continued until the end of the half, when Princeton led by one, 36–35.
To start the second half, Evbuomwan once again made his mark for the Tigers by swatting away an inside Yale layup attempt. Then, turning defense into offense, he grabbed the rebound and pushed the pace down the floor. He found senior forward Keeshawn Kellman inside, and Kellman dropped in a layup for the first bucket of the half. With 16:10 remaining, sophomore guard Blake Peters hit a big three-pointer to give the Tigers their biggest lead of the half, 49–44.
Then, the Bulldogs finally woke up.
Yale forward Matt Knowling found guard John Poulakidas on back-to-back plays around the perimeter, making an extra pass for Poulakidas to drop in two consecutive three-pointers. Then, Bulldogs forward E.J. Jarvis joined the club and knocked down a three of his own. Finally, Knowling found an opening inside for a dunk that gave the Bulldogs a 55–51 lead.
After a quick nine-point swing, the Tigers called a timeout to try and stop the bleeding.
First-year guard Xaivian Lee came off the bench for Princeton. With 12:35 remaining, he swished a three to cut the deficit to one, 57–56. That would be Princeton’s last bucket for the next six minutes.
It seemed as though everything was working for Yale at this point. The Bulldogs were in a groove on offense, hitting jumpers and finding cutters inside. On defense, they locked down the Tigers, forcing misses from all over. Yale guard Isaiah Kelly’s emphatic putback slam helped rally the crowd watching in New Haven.
The beat-down did not let up throughout the rest of the game, and, losing by 20 with three minutes remaining, Princeton took their starters out.
“Yale played great, and they made big shots at the key moment in the game,” head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 told The Daily Princetonian.
As a team, Yale dominated the offensive statistics, managing to shoot almost 60 percent from the field and 67 percent from the three-point line.
Yale also saw five different scorers reach double-figures. The Bulldogs were led by Poulakidas, who dropped 19 points on five-for-six three-point shooting. Guard August Mahoney added 15 points, Knowling contributed 12 points and nine rebounds, and guards Bez Mbeng and Kelly each put up 11 points.
For Princeton, Evbuomwan led with 15 points, five rebounds, and six assists on an efficient seven-for-nine from the field. Peters also added 15 points, all from three-pointers.
“It’s key that we look at what happened, and then we need to move on with a big weekend ahead,” Henderson said.
The weekend ahead will consist of back-to-back games in Jadwin Gymnasium. On Friday, Feb. 3, Princeton will host the Cornell Big Red (15–5, 5–2) in a matchup between the two top teams in the Ivy League. The two last met on Jan. 7 in Ithaca, where Princeton won 75–68.
Then, on Saturday, Feb. 4, Princeton will face Columbia (6–16, 1–6). Columbia currently sits on the bottom of the conference standings. The last time the Tigers faced Columbia, just three weeks ago, Princeton crushed the Lions in a 68–49 victory. However, the Lions are not to be overlooked, as they topped Yale earlier this season.
Matt Drapkin is an assistant editor for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’ Please direct any corrections requests to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.