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Men’s basketball dominates Yale to hand the Bulldogs their first Ivy loss of the season

A man shoots a basketball over the outstretched arms of the defender as the crowd watches on.
Despite an early game injury, sophomore forward Caden Pierce returned to the game and scored 11 points to lead the Tigers to victory
Picture courtesy of @PrincetonMBB/X

“We’ll be ready,” senior guard and captain Matt Allocco told the Daily Princetonian following the win against Brown on Friday night. 

The Tigers (19–3 overall, 7–2 Ivy League) were indeed ready, outplaying the Bulldogs (17–7, 8–1) for 40 minutes en route to a 73–62 victory. Princeton not only handed Yale its first loss in Ivy League play, but they also prevented the Bulldogs from securing a new best start to an Ivy League season in their program's history. 


“That’s a really good team, you have to play well to beat them,” head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 told the ‘Prince’ postgame. “We really dictated things physically, which was part of our intent.” 

On national television and in front of 4,358 faithful Tiger fans, Princeton earned its biggest win of the season. Sophomore guard Xaivian Lee led the way with 19 points while Allocco added 18 of his own. 

“It’s awesome playing in front of the students,” senior forward Zach Martini added. “The students getting here an hour before tipoff was a great feeling. It’s something we’re not really used to … We only have two more games here, so keep it rolling.”

The most impressive feat for the Tigers was on the defensive end, where they held forward Danny Wolf — front-runner for the Ivy League Player of the Year award — to zero points.

“I thought the effort on [Wolf] was terrific,” Henderson noted. “Wolf is a little bit of everything, he hurt us in their place. We were really active and Zach [Martini] and Caden [Pierce] were terrific on him.”


Less than a minute into the game, sophomore forward Caden Pierce took a hard fall and started bleeding from his chin, missing six minutes and needing five stitches in the locker room. His replacement — sophomore guard Jack Scott — provided a burst of energy off the bench. 

“Jack [Scott] coming in was a seamless transition,” Martini noted. “For him to come into the post, we didn’t lose a beat. I think that just shows dividends of how locked in we were tonight.”

Junior guard Blake Peters started the scoring with a three. However, Yale guard Bez Mbeng answered with two consecutive buckets in the paint. Mbeng is the reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year and served as the primary defender on Lee. 

Shortly after, Allocco aggressively attacked the paint, and swiftly dished a pass to Martini, who readily hit a three from the corner. The triple gave the Tigers an early 8–4 lead. 

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Following the media timeout, Yale guard August Mahoney pulled up from behind the arc to give Yale its first lead at 13–12, but Martini eagerly tied the game with a three of his own. Martini — who struggled Friday night against Brown — scored 10 points in the first half to lead the Tigers. 

Down 18–15, Peters exposed Wolf, beating him inside for two quick points. Peters scored two baskets from inside the three-point arc for the first time since last season’s Ivy League opener.

Forward Jack Molloy provided Yale with a spark, nailing a three to take a 23–21 lead. The Connecticut native played a bigger role on Saturday night due to Yale star forward Matt Knowling being out. Molloy scored six points and had the highest plus-minus of any Bulldog. 

“Matt Knowling is a preseason player of the year, we didn’t have him, so that was tough,” Yale head coach James Jones told the ‘Prince’ postgame.

With under four minutes remaining in the half, Lee hit a triple to tie the game at 28. The shot sparked a Princeton run to close out the half. Allocco put Princeton ahead with a fadeaway shot over Danny Wolf’s outstretched frame with time expiring. After getting stops defensively, consecutive threes from first-year guard Dalen Davis and Allocco gave Princeton a 38–30 lead at the break

“[Allocco]’s playing like a senior,” Henderson added. “We felt good about the matchups he was getting and he made some really tough late clock shots. He made all his free throws.”

The Tigers came out the gates hot once again, going on a 9–4 run to take a 47–34 lead. The run came courtesy of Pierce and Lee, highlighted by a Pierce and-one score over Wolf.

“I feel like my coaches and teammates put me in good positions to be successful,” Pierce added postgame. “At the end of the day, it comes down to making the right play and I think I did that down the stretch.”

It was a game of runs, as the Bulldogs went on a 13–2 run of their own to cut the deficit to two. Molloy yet again provided life for the seemingly stagnant Bulldogs, ripping an offensive rebound down and going back up to draw an and-one. With the momentum in the Bulldogs’ favor, Yale guard John Poulakidas hit a three to make it a one-possession game. 

After hitting the first shot of the game, Peters emerged at a crucial time to draw and convert an and-one to pad Princeton’s lead again. However, Poulakidas demonstrated great resilience, hitting a buzzer-beater three after a near-perfect defensive sequence by the Tigers. With just over eight minutes remaining, the Tigers held a 54–50 advantage. 

The Tigers continued to make strides in the next few minutes of the contest. Lee continued to dribble through the Yale defense, earning easy layups. Allocco attacked the rim at every opportunity possible, earning and converting free throws. The Tigers went 17-for-18 from the charity stripe in the second half, with Allocco securing seven of these for Tigers. The game slowly pulled away from Yale, as Princeton held a 63–53 lead with just under four minutes remaining. 

Up 69–60, a breakaway dunk from Pierce put the nail in the coffin. Minutes later, the final buzzer sounded, with the Tigers coming out on top, 73–62. 

“This group has a very strong will to win,” Henderson told the ‘Prince.’ “I’m glad to see that.”

The Tigers shot 48.3 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from beyond the arc in the first half. In the second half, the shooting worsened, but the Tigers were more aggressive and attacked the rim more. Turning the ball over just once and not missing a single free throw in the second half helped secure the 11-point win for Henderson’s squad. 

“I thought we were not great offensively tonight, we were not patient enough to get the things we normally get,” Jones noted. 

The rivalry between these two teams has been one to watch for fans across the country. The two sides met in the final game of the Ivy Madness tournament in both 2022 and 2023, with the Bulldogs clinching a two-point win in the former and the Tigers emerging victorious in the latter.

This year, the Tigers currently sit in third place behind Cornell (19–4, 8–1) and Yale. The Tigers will likely need to sweep the rest of the season and hope for a Bulldogs loss to clinch the regular season title and the first seed in the Ivy Madness tournament, where the Bulldogs and Tigers may meet once more.

“We want to see them again,” Martini added. “We love playing them.”

The next opportunity for Princeton to make up some ground in the standings will be next weekend when they travel north to take on the Harvard Crimson (13–9, 4–5) and Dartmouth Big Green (5–17, 1–8). The Tigers beat both squads by 31 and 18 respectively at home earlier this season and will be big favorites to do so once more next weekend.  

When asked if this year’s team can repeat what last year’s team accomplished, Martini quickly responded, “No doubt in my mind. We got the belief, the spirit to win ... the coach. I have no doubt.”

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

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

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