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Men's basketball defeats Penn 77–70 to advance to Ivy Madness final

The Tigers will face Yale, last year's victor, on Sunday afternoon

The Tigers have not lost to Penn since 2018, with Saturday’s win being their ninth consecutive in the rivalry.
Yousif Mohamed / The Daily Princetonian 

On Saturday, March 11, the men’s basketball team (20–8 overall, 10–4 Ivy League) advanced to the Ivy Madness championship game with a 77–70 win over the Penn Quakers (17–13, 9–5) with over 4,500 in attendance at Jadwin Gymnasium. The win extends the Tigers’ winning streak against the Quakers to nine games, and means they’ll have a chance to advance to the NCAA Tournament with a win Sunday against the Yale Bulldogs (21–7, 10–4) in the title game.

“That was the most physical game we’ve played in a long time,” said head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 in the postgame press conference. “It was just an unbelievable atmosphere thanks to … all the fans that came out.”


The Tigers got off to a slow start, allowing the Quakers to open the game with a 5–0 run. First-year forward Caden Pierce retaliated early, dropping in a three-pointer from the corner with 18:44 remaining to reduce the deficit, 5–3.

“This whole season has been incredible,” explained Pierce. “Learning one game at a time, getting better each and every game. [Ivy Madness is] all new for us [first-years]. What we’ve experienced, we’re hoping to experience it again going forward.”

The Tigers would choose to double team Penn’s star guard and Ivy League Player of the Year Jordan Dingle to open the game, allowing guard Clark Slajchert to come out of the gates hot with a steal and a layup to top off Pierce’s basket. Establishing the back-and-forth nature of the game, senior forward Tosan Evbuomwan would swish a one-legged turnaround jumper to tie the game at nine with 14:22 left in the first half.

“We always have belief that we’re gonna win,” said Evbuomwan. “We’ve come back from deficits all year, we’ve won close games, we’ve let some slip, and all those games have prepared us for this game.”

The Quakers would come out ahead with a 17–11 advantage with just under 12 minutes remaining in the half, but the Tigers would later pounce back with a 7–2 run of their own to tie the game, 22–22, with 5:59 remaining. The run included a two-handed jam from Pierce and a long three-pointer at the wing from junior forward Zach Martini. Martini would go on to finish the game with 12 points on four-for-six shooting from behind the arc.

Later, a Pierce triple off of a one-handed swing from first-year guard Xaivian Lee, followed by a layup from junior guard Matt Allocco would put the Tigers up two, 27–25, with 4:51 left in the half. However, a Dingle jumper and layup would return the lead to the Quakers, 29–27, a few seconds later. A tightly-guarded three-pointer from senior guard Ryan Langborg would briefly put the Tigers ahead with less than two minutes remaining, but Penn would ultimately take a 31–30 lead going into the break.


The second half was more of the same, with neither team taking a commanding advantage at any point. After managing just three points in the first half, Langborg started to find his rhythm, as he converted an and-one layup and sank a three to give the Tigers a 37–34 lead. Langborg would finish the game with 12 points.

The Tigers also saw significant contributions from their bench. Martini connected on four three pointers, and Lee went four-for-four from the free throw line and finished with seven points. Back-to-back threes from Martini and two free throws from Evbuomwan gave the Tigers a six-point lead with 14:35 remaining.

A three from Slajchert and an and-one layup from Dingle gave the Quakers a 61–58 lead with 7:45 remaining. Dingle would go on to miss the free throw, allowing Evbuomwan to cut the lead to just one with a tough fading jumper.

While the Tigers, in their previous two matchups with the Quakers, have grown accustomed to a Dingle-centered offensive attack, the Quakers depended much more on their role players on Saturday. Slajchert, who had averaged just seven points per game in two matchups with the Tigers this year, finished with 17 points and four triples. 

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Later in the half, Langborg grabbed a rebound from a missed Dingle three and threw it ahead to Pierce, who converted on a soaring and-one layup and reclaimed the lead for the Tigers at 69–68. The Tigers would not trail again.

Even with the offensive fireworks from Pierce, Slajchert, and others, it was hustle plays late in the game from Pierce and senior forward Keeshawn Kellman that allowed them to close the game. The two collected clutch rebounds on both ends of the floor, and made huge defensive plays down the stretch. Kellman drew an open-court charge with 1:23 remaining to give the Tigers possession with a one point lead. 

“[Pierce is] the best rebounder that’s played for me, and he’s so humble,” said Henderson about Pierce, the recently-crowned Ivy League Rookie of the Year. Pierce finished the game with a double-double, with 14 points, 12 rebounds, and a career-high four assists.

“I thought he was unbelievable,” added Henderson about Kellman’s play. “We’ve been waiting for this [from Kellman], and I’m just so proud of him — he was terrific,” added Henderson.

On the ensuing play, Pierce grabbed the rebound from a missed Langborg three, allowing Evbuomwan to extend the lead to three with a clutch jumper to end the Tigers’ offensive possession.

“I just try to stay calm as much as possible,” said Evbuomwan about his play at the end of the game. “I appreciate my teammates and coaching staff a lot, they give me the confidence to make those plays in those big moments,” he added.

Dingle missed a three on the other end, and it was Pierce once again who grabbed the rebound. He was fouled by Slajchert, and iced the game with two made free throws, giving the Tigers a five-point lead that they would ride to the final whistle, winning 77–70.

The Tigers will now advance to the Ivy Madness championship game where they’ll face off with the Yale Bulldogs for the third time this season, with a trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line. The Bulldogs swept the Tigers in two regular season games this year, and they defeated the Tigers in last year’s Ivy League championship game in heartbreaking fashion. 

“This one’s been circled [on the calendar] for a while,” said Evbuomwan about the championship rematch with Yale. “[I’m] really looking forward to it — getting another opportunity to win that one and do what we’ve dreamt of,” he added.

The Tigers will tip-off against the Bulldogs at noon tomorrow, less than 24 hours after their semifinal win. 

“These guys are young, [and] we’re playing for everything tomorrow,” noted Henderson. “We went over Yale’s stuff on Monday, we know them, we’ve been thinking about them a lot. We’ll be ready tomorrow.”

Diego Uribe is an assistant editor for the Sports section at the 'Prince.' 

Yousif Mohamed is a contributor to the Sports section at the 'Prince.'

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