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Staff Picks: Men’s Basketball vs Cornell

A basketball player runs across the field while another defends against him.
The Tigers suffered their biggest loss of the season when they played the Big Red earlier this season in Ithaca.
Picture courtesy of @PrincetonMBB/X

The men’s basketball team (21–3 overall, 9–2 Ivy League) was 15–1 heading into their Jan. 27 matchup with the Cornell Big Red (20–5, 9–2), having yet to drop an Ivy League game.

In an 83–68 loss, they shot 32.2 percent from the field, 18.5 percent from beyond the arc, and scored just 68 points — all of which were season lows. 


The Tigers suffered another loss in their next game against the Yale Bulldogs (18–8, 9–2), and, in the blink of an eye, their hopes of a perfect Ivy League season were slashed and wishes for an at-large bid to March Madness diminished.

There will be no shortage of motivation for the Tigers when they host Cornell on Saturday night — they still remember how badly they were beaten in January. A win against the Big Red will all but secure a third consecutive Ivy League regular season title and a No. 1 seed in Ivy Madness. 

The Big Red, who stood alone at the top of the Ivy League standings just last week, now share the top spot with the Tigers and the Bulldogs after they fell to the Brown Bears (9–17, 5–6) in a shocking upset last weekend.

Though the taste of a bad loss is certainly lingering for the Big Red, the fact remains that they have been an offensive nightmare for opposing teams all season. They have the Ivy League’s highest scoring offense and tallest starting five — both of which were on display against the Tigers, when the Big Red shot 57.6 percent from the field and won the rebound battle 37–2.

It will be a battle between two of the Ivy League’s highest scoring, fastest-paced teams, and fans will be in for a show.

March is here. Naturally, madness will ensue.


Associate Sports editor Hayk Yengibaryan ’26, associate Sports editor Tate Hutchins ’27, and assistant Sports editor Alex Beverton-Smith ’27 offered their picks for this weekend’s contest.

Princeton 78, Cornell 61 — Hayk Yengibaryan, associate Sports editor 

Cornell is not built for March. 

You cannot win big games late in the season with a defense like Cornell's. Ranked dead last in team defense and giving up a whopping 71 points per game, this is simply not a recipe for success. Less than two weeks ago, Cornell gave up 47 points to Dartmouth — in the first half. For reference, the Big Green have notched just five wins across the season and are ranked 336 out of 362 in the latest NCAA NET rankings. 

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Princeton, on the other hand, ranks first in team defense and gives up just 63.18 points per game. The Tigers have struggled against taller and bigger competition, evident against the Brown Bears when Brown’s Nana Owusu-Anane put up 17 points at Jadwin Gymnasium. Fortunately for Princeton, the Big Red will happily live and die by the three-pointer. 

On Saturday night, the triple will kill the Big Red. Tigers Head Coach Mitch Henderson ’98 will outcoach former teammate Brian Earl ’99 in front of a packed crowd at Jadwin Gymnasium. Princeton will get off to a quick start and hold a double-digit lead at halftime. Look for junior guard Blake Peters to have one of his best shooting performances of the season, connecting on four triples. 

There’s been a lot of talk about Cornell up to this point. After Saturday night, they will be in the back of everyone’s mind. Don’t let Cornell fool you into thinking they can compete with Yale and Princeton. On March 17 inside Levien Gymnasium, we will see the trilogy of Yale and Princeton for a bid to the NCAA tournament.

Princeton 75, Cornell 68 — Tate Hutchins, associate Sports editor 

The last time the two teams matched up in Ithaca, the Tigers fell flat. Cornell’s fast tempo and pace proved hard for the Tigers to defend, while the Tigers shot just 1/15 from deep in the first half to go down 43–24 at the half, which turned out to be an insurmountable lead. Though the last matchup was nightmarish, I believe that Princeton has learned its lessons and will use the Jadwin crowd to turn a victory. If both teams take care of business Friday, the winner will likely land the top seed and avoid the other two top Ivy teams in the first round of Ivy Madness — a massive advantage.

One key to a Princeton victory will be for them to control the pace. In their last game, they continually tried to catch up with the fast pace of the Big Red, and the shot selection suffered as a result. The Princeton offense excels in the half-court with lots of movement and using up the shot clock to get a good look, and they will need to get back into this comfortable style of offense. Slowing down the pace will also help stop a Cornell team that sees a disproportionately large percentage of their points come in transition and the first few seconds of the shot clock.

The big difference in this matchup is the home-court advantage for Princeton. Though sometimes the advantage is overhyped, there’s a reason that the Tigers are perfect at home this season. Jadwin will be packed once again and will provide a much-needed boost for the Tigers. Star sophomores Xaivian Lee and Caden Pierce struggled in front of the hostile Cornell crowd, but now they are back home where Lee’s best performances have occurred and Yale star forward Danny Wolf dropped zero points two weeks ago.

Princeton 75, Cornell 64 — Alex Beverton-Smith, assistant Sports editor 

There’s now a three-way tie atop the Ivy League. Princeton, Cornell, and Yale have been dominating this season, and now, two of these three giants will play each other for the final time in this regular season.

Princeton has been in strong form since their back-to-back losses against Cornell and Yale a month ago. That Cornell team shocked Princeton in a tough 83–68 away loss for the Tigers, but Princeton isn’t the same team. Having held Yale’s star sophomore center Danny Wolf to zero points two weeks ago, the Tigers have shown they are capable of shutting out the opposition when it comes down to it. 

Sophomore forward Caden Pierce will once again be crucial for the Tigers’ defensive efforts — he leads the team in rebounds with 9.5 rebounds per game. He will be vital not only for rebounding, but also in his aerial presence at both ends of the court. Expect senior guard Matt Allocco, who leads the team in minutes, averaging 34.0 per game, to also be central to the Tigers’ efforts across the board. Star sophomore guard Xavian Lee will lead the team in points, coming up with them when the team needs them most towards the end of the inevitably close game.

Cornell lacks superstar quality, but they operate well as a team. It’s this combined effort that allows them to see off teams with strong statistical performances from all starters and very large bench production. 

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

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

Alex Beverton-Smith is an assistant Sports editor for the ‘Prince.’

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