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Staff Picks: Men’s basketball at Yale

Basketball player wearing black Princeton jersey shoots a basketball.
The last time Princeton played Yale was during the 2023 Ivy Madness Final, when the Tigers beat the Bulldogs to advance to the NCAA tournament.
Picture courtesy of @PrincetonMBB/X.


Coming off a tough 83–68 loss to the Cornell Big Red (15–3 overall, 4–0 Ivy League), the Princeton men’s basketball team (15–2, 3–1) currently sits in third place in the Ivy League standings. In front of the Tigers, the Big Red and the Yale Bulldogs (13–6, 4–0) are the only two undefeated teams remaining.

On Friday, Feb. 2, the Tigers will look to make strides in the standings when they head to New Haven, Conn., to take on the Bulldogs in a marquee matchup between the Ivy League’s two preseason favorites. The game’s rematch will be featured on ESPN2 when the Bulldogs travel to Jadwin Gymnasium on February 17th.

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The last time the two sides met was during the 2023 Ivy Madness Final when the Tigers bested the Bulldogs 74–65. Since then, the Tigers lost several key pieces, including former Ivy League Player of the Year Tosan Evbuomwan ’23, Northwestern transfer Ryan Langborg ’23, and​​ Florida Gulf Coast University transfer Keeshawn Kellman ’23. 

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs lost one key contributor — forward EJ Jarvis, an All-Ivy second team selection last season. 

But Yale has impressively kept its core together. Senior forward Matthew Knowling was an All–Ivy first team selection last season. Junior guard Bez Mbeng is the reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year. Senior guard August Mahoney is coming off a season where he started 28 contests and earned an Ivy League All–Tournament team selection

And lastly, junior guard John Poulakidas is one of the best three-point shooters in the Ivy league. The six feet, six inches Illinois native scored a career-high 30 points in Jadwin gymnasium against the Tigers last season in a regular season matchup. He also totaled 22 points with four threes in the Bulldogs most recent win on the road against the Harvard Crimson (10–7, 1–3).

Princeton will come into the match as three and a half point underdogs on all major United States sportsbooks.

Associate Sports editor Hayk Yengibaryan ’26, associate Sports editor Tate Hutchins '27, assistant Sports editor Harrison Blank ’26, staff Sports writer JP Ohl ’26, and staff Sports writer Joseph Uglialoro ’27 offered their picks for this weekend’s contest.

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Yale 71, Princeton 70 – Hayk Yengibaryan, Associate Sports Editor 

This will be Princeton’s hardest game of the regular season. They are favored in every single remaining regular season matchup. 

I am a believer that to win in March, you have to lose in February. I think this is what happens to the Tigers on Friday night in New Haven, Connecticut.

Reigning Ivy League Coach of the Year James Jones has prepared the Bulldogs for nights like this. With the hardest strength of schedule in the league, the squad has played some of the nation’s best. While they have worrisome losses to Weber State and Fairfield, they have also gone on the road and beat both Santa Clara and LMU. The Bulldogs notably went toe to toe this season with the Kansas Jayhawks in the first half of their matchup at Allen Fieldhouse. 

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This Yale team remembers far too well what happened the last time they played the Tigers. After sweeping the Tigers in the regular season and being the talk of the Ivy League, they were outplayed in the final of Ivy Madness. 

The biggest question for the Tigers will be how sophomore star Xaivian Lee handles the pressure Friday night. With the constant national media attention, the Canadian guard has been hearing it from opposing fans. The Big Red held him to 3/13 shooting during the Tigers last contest. 

With that being said, give me the Bulldogs. I expect Yale to come in and take control of this contest and avenge the loss in the Ivy Madness. Mbeng will be a tough matchup for Lee while Knowling and Mahoney will have big nights in front of a packed crowd at John J. Lee Amphitheater. 

Princeton 79, Yale 73 – Tate Hutchins, Associate Sports Editor 

The Tigers are coming off their worst game of the year by a fairly large margin, shooting a disastrous 32.2% from the field in a 15-point loss to Cornell. But despite the nightmare game, Princeton remains a more proven team than Yale. There’s a reason that they’ve won 15 of 17, and while Yale is an impressive 13–6, the Bulldogs haven’t yet beaten a team near Princeton’s level.

Yale will undoubtedly try to exploit their size advantage through 7’0” forward and leading scorer Danny Wolf, who will pose problems for the Tigers who max out at 6’7” in their starting lineup. As in the past, Princeton will likely counter with double teams and quick rotations to neutralize Wolf, and much of the game will be decided by whether the rest of Yale can step up and make the Tigers pay. 

On the other end, look for the Princeton offense to run through Xaivian Lee. Lee has been a proven scorer on all three levels and has gotten better at creating opportunities for others as the season has gone on, something necessary against Yale. The three-point shooting of the Tigers has been their biggest weapon as the whole starting five can knock down outside shots, and will pose the largest threat to Yale in New Haven. Caden Pierce also must continue to play bigger than his size and keep Princeton in the game on the inside and rebounding.

In the end, I expect Princeton to reclaim their excellent outside shooting and contain Wolf well enough to pick up a huge Ivy road win in New Haven.

Princeton 69, Yale 64 – Harrison Blank, Assistant Sports Editor 

The Tigers bounce back from last week’s difficult loss to Cornell with a season-reviving victory in the heart of New Haven over the Bulldogs. The Princeton offense returns to its heralded fame and powers a wire-to-wire win that gets the Tigers back on track.

After stars Xaivian Lee and Caden Pierce shot a combined 6–26 from the floor last Saturday, they each break the 20-point mark with their usual elite efficiency. The guard-forward duo both rank in the top-300 nationally in true-shooting percentage according to KenPom.com, an advanced stat combining free throw percentage and field goal percentage, and they dice the Bulldog defense.

The Bulldogs are led by center Danny Wolf, and he and Pierce battle all night long on the boards, coming to a stalemate. Both elite rebounders prevent either side from gaining an advantage from offensive rebounds. 

The story of the day is the Tiger’s barrage of three-pointers from the outside, making 12 for the game. The Tigers rank top ten in the nation in percentage of shots that are three-pointers according to analysis from KenPom.com, and the Bulldogs have struggled to guard the long ball in the past. Princeton fields a dangerous starting five that can all hit open threes, and they cash in tonight.

The Bulldogs fall short of revenge, and the Tigers escape New Haven with a win and much-needed momentum for the rest of the season. 

Princeton 73, Yale 70 – JP Ohl, Staff Sports Writer 

If Princeton wants to match their success from last year, they need to win hostile games. At Yale, the Tigers will look to prove that they can win in stressful environments. Prior to the game on Friday night, Princeton had failed in their two major tests thus far at St Joseph’s and Cornell. 

To win this game, the Tigers need to control the boards and shoot threes more efficiently. Henderson’s men are ready for the challenge. 

Caden Pierce must outduel Bulldogs 7’0” center Danny Wolf to give Princeton as many possessions and scoring opportunities as possible. Pierce is battle tested against unfavorable challenges, as seen when he grabbed 16 crucial rebounds against Missouri in last year’s Cinderella March Madness run. 

Last weekend, the Tigers shot an abysmal 5/27 from beyond the arc. An improvement is imperative for the Tiger squad to win. Keep an eye out for Junior guard Blake Peters, an X factor for the Princeton offense, and sophomore standout Xaivian Lee, who needs to find his dominant offensive rhythm and bounce back after a lackluster shooting night. 

The last time the Tigers dropped two consecutive league games was nearly two years ago on Feb. 4, 2022.  

Princeton 78, Yale 73 – Joseph Uglialoro, Sports Staff Writer 

On Friday evening, Princeton will have no chance for a get-right game, as the Bulldogs hold a perfect conference record and a team returning many of last year’s starters. 

Princeton is 2–10 in its last twelve games against Yale and lost last year’s matchup in New Haven by a whopping 22 points. Recency bias favors the Tigers, who knocked off first-seeded Yale in last year’s Ivy Madness final to punch their ticket to March Madness. From that point forward, the two teams’ paths have diverged sharply. Princeton made their now-famous run to the Sweet 16 and started this season with nine straight wins. Meanwhile, Yale watched from the couch in March and dropped early-season contests to minnows Weber State and Fairfield. 

Crucial to Princeton’s gameplan will be containing sophomore seven-footer Danny Wolf, who has averaged 15 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game this season. Guards John Poulakidas and Bez Mbeng, each of whom finished with more than twenty points in a game against the Tigers last year, will also provide challenges for the Princeton defense. 

Forward Caden Pierce will be tasked with stopping Wolf, and his track record suggests he is more than capable of doing so. Sophomore guard Xaivian Lee, who saw little to no action in last year’s tilts against Yale, also projects to be a difference-maker on Friday. The Tigers can point to their unusually dismal 18 percent three-point shooting against Cornell as the reason for such an uncharacteristic loss. A return to the mean against the Bulldogs should be enough for Princeton to claim a close win in New Haven. 

The Tigers will face off against the Bulldogs in New Haven, Conn., at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 2.

Hayk Yengibaryan is an associate editor for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’

Tate Hutchins is an associate editor for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’

Harrison Blank is an assistant editor for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’

JP Ohl is a staff Sports writer for the ‘Prince.’ 

Joseph Uglialoro is a staff Sports writer for the ‘Prince.’

Please send corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.

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