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Six double-digit scorers carry men’s basketball to win over Columbia

Caden Pierce jumps off the court with a basketball coming out of his hand. Several Columbia players wearing blue jerseys stand around him.
Caden Pierce leaps in the Columbia game on Friday, March 1.
Photo by Ryland Graham / The Daily Princetonian

On Friday evening at Jadwin Gymnasium, the Princeton Tigers (22–3 overall, 10–2 Ivy League) beat the Columbia Lions (13–12, 4–8) 84–70 after falling behind early in the first half. Six players — all five of the Tigers’ starters and Dalen Davis off the bench — hit double-digits, with Davis scoring a career-high 16 points.

The Tigers currently sit in a three-way tie with Cornell and Yale at the top of the Ivy League men’s basketball standings. Columbia trails far behind at sixth in the conference, making the game Princeton’s to lose. 


Princeton struggled with the Lions’ pace after tip off, as their quick playmaking from beyond the arc helped the Lions jump out to an early lead. The Tigers, however, found a way to handle Columbia and finished the game with a comfortable 14-point margin.

“That was a hell of a win, Columbia was awesome tonight, gave us everything we could handle and we caught up to their speed which will be another factor tomorrow night,” head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 told The Daily Princetonian. 

Some sloppy play by the Tigers put them behind 7–2, off of a couple misplaced passes. Missed threes by sophomore forward Caden Pierce, as well as sophomore guards Xaivian Lee and Jack Scott, saw the Tigers stay down 13–7 soon after. In the early minutes, the Tigers could not keep their shooting consistent, and they provided the Lions with ample scoring opportunities.

Lee finally broke Princeton’s three-and-a-half-minute dry run with a layup to make it 13–9, but five more points from Columbia forced Henderson to call a timeout. 

The Tigers came out of the break with a quick three from junior guard Blake Peters. The Lions kept the Tigers at a distance after a triple of their own to make it 21–12. 

Later in the half, senior guard Matt Allocco crossed up a Columbia player, drove to the basket, hit the layup, and scored the “and one,” igniting an 11–2 Princeton run to tie up the game 23–23. The teams then traded threes for a few possessions, as a Columbia triple was quickly followed by a three from first-year guard Dalen Davis to once again tie the game.


“Dalen was awesome off of the bench, [he] gave us a real lift,” Henderson said.

Davis’ role played a significant role in the game as he ended with a career-high 16 points across 26 minutes on the court following an injury from Allocco. Going 6–9 from the field, he stepped up to the plate when the Tigers needed him most, cementing his role as Princeton’s sixth man and foreshadowing an increased role on the team next year. 

“He’s been incredible all year, a big-time player, we had high expectations for him coming in,” Peters told the ‘Prince.’ “He’s been giving us production all season off the bench, so not surprised he’s doing great.”

Peters himself had a great game shooting, going 5–7 on three-point attempts throughout the night. He hit one in the middle of the court as the Tigers bounced to a six-point advantage, 34–28. 

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In the last 2:30 of the first half, the teams traded points in quick succession. The half ended with Pierce making a dunk before a buzzer-beater three from the Lions brought the score to 41–33 Princeton.

“It’s sort of a meritocracy,” Henderson said about the team’s overall production. “Xaivian [Lee] tends to get a lot of the looks, but … I think the guys are committed to taking great shots.” 

The teams began the second half by trading buckets before Pierce made a jumper from the paint to bring the lead into double digits at 46–36.

The Lions, with about ten minutes to go, crawled their way back into the game courtesy of a 7–0 run. Bringing the score back within five was the closest they would get, as the Tigers slammed the door shut in the final moments of the half. 

With seven minutes left on the clock, the Tigers’ prolific shooting from three kept and increased their lead. Princeton went 4–10 from three in the last seven minutes, in part because of Peters’ apparent inability to miss from downtown on the night.

Fittingly, the Tigers’ last points on the night came from a Peters three from far beyond the arc. A Columbia layup finalized the score at 84–70.

Princeton ended the game with six double-digit scorers — the whole starting five and Dalen Davis off the bench.

The Tigers managed to score 100 percent from the free throw line, going 15–15 — a stark contrast to Columbia’s 55.6 percent. Ultimately, it was the Tigers’ ability to adjust themselves to the game quick enough that got them the win.

Looking ahead to Saturday night, Princeton plays Cornell (21–5, 10–2) in a crucial matchup for the number one seed in the Ivy Madness tournament, as well as the regular season conference title itself. In the last matchup against the Big Red, the Tigers lost 83–68, but Princeton should feel confident for the upcoming game following their unbeaten home streak and their strong offensive form.

“They rolled us in Ithaca, [it] was not close.” Henderson told the ‘Prince’ about the upcoming matchup. “It was the one game this season where we were not even in the game. We’ll be ready.”

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

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