No. 1 Princeton men survive No. 4 Cornell, 77-73, to advance to Ivy League Tournament final

Ivy Player of the Year Tosan Evbuomwan lived up to that honor down the stretch of Princeton’s 77-73 Ivy League Tournament semifinal win over Cornell, scoring 14 points in the final 10:14 to lead the Tigers to victory. (photo by Erica Denhoff)

No. 1 Princeton and No. 4 Cornell combined to give us one of the best games in Ivy League Tournament history Saturday.

But it was the Tigers who drew final blood against the Big Red, advancing to the tournament final, with Player of the Year Tosan Evbuomwan hitting the game-winning shot with 36 seconds left to push Princeton past a persistent Cornell squad in a 77-73 barnburner.

Princeton got the start it hoped for after the 11 a.m. tip-off. Four of the Tiger starters hit threes in the first four minutes, powering the No. 1 seed to a 16-6 lead.

Coach Mitch Henderson was determined that the Tigers not fall behind by double digits to Cornell as happened in their first meeting at Jadwin Gym in January. Princeton enjoyed the early momentum and the lead through the first 13 minutes of action. A Jaelin Llewellyn jumper at the 7:07 mark gave the Tigers a 15-point margin, 37-22. It would prove to be the high watermark for Henderson’s club.

Former Princeton Ivy Player of the Year Brian Earl did not win Coach of the Year honors by getting blown away.
Enter Nazir Williams and Greg Dolan, two members the deepest bench in the league.  These two sharpshooters triggered a game-changing 13-2 run for the Big Red over the next six minutes. A Llewellyn free throw sent the teams to the locker room with Princeton ahead 40-35.
But Cornell succeeded in taking the momentum back. The Tigers’ six threes, to just two for the Big Red, was the primary reason the Tigers were in the lead.
Llewellyn notched 17 tallies while Ethan Wright counted 10. No Cornell player reached double figures in the opening 20 minutes, but eight scored. Williams contributed eight points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field.
The second stanza will be remembered as one of the most exciting in Ivy Madness history.

Holding the momentum they seized in the closing minutes of the first half, Brian Earl’s quintet opened the second on a 7-0 run to grab the lead. A Llewellyn three gave a hint of what was in store for the rest of the game. Neither team would manage any sustained run from then on.

The teams traded baskets and the lead, keeping the fans, players, coaches and writers on the edges of our seats. After 11 minutes, the score was 60-60. Evbuomwan had a quiet first half but asserted himself in the second. For the Big Red, Sarju Patel. Dean Noll and Kobe Dickson joined Williams as scoring threats on each possession.
A Williams layup thrust Cornell into the lead at 65-62 with 7:47 remaining.
For the Tigers, it was time for the Player of the Year to step up.
He did.
Evbuomwan scored 10 points in the final 7:47.
Like pit bulls, neither team would relax its grip. A Dickson layup tied the game at 71 with 2:20 left. Evbuomwan answered, and so did Dickson. 73-73, 1:36 to play.
The Tigers had the ball with a chance to take the lead. Princeton had been outrebounded handily by the Big Red, particularly on the offensive glass. A rare Evbuomwan miss in close gave Ethan Wright a chance to collect a much-needed offensive carom. Timeout Tigers, 1:04 left.
Wright then missed an open three, but Llewellyn was there to get the second offensive rebound of the sequence. Then Evbuomwan missed at close range, giving Cornell a shot at the ball. Out of nowhere, Wright swooped in high to capture the third carom in a possession that reached a minute in length. The Tigers took another time out with 19 seconds on the shot clock.
Hold on. The officials went to replay to review whether the last shot touched the rim. They ruled that it had not. Tiger ball, but with only six seconds on the clock.
That was all Evbuomwan needed. He battled to the rim to give Princeton a 75-73 lead at the 36-second mark.
No one in the gym thought the lead was safe. Timeout Cornell.
Cornell set up Noll to attempt a three for the lead with nine seconds to go. Fortunately for Princeton, Noll missed.
Langborg was quickly fouled and coolly canned both free throws to put the game out of reach, 77-73. Princeton survived what was nothing less than a street brawl over the final 20 minutes.
Tosan’s 16 second-half points gave him 21 for the game. Llewellyn finished with a game-high 23.
Princeton had 11 threes to eight for Cornell, who shot much better in the second stanza. For the game the Tigers shot 52% from the field to Cornell’s very respectable 48.5%. Perhaps the most critical stat was the Tigers’ three offensive rebounds in one possession at the end.
The Tigers will now get some rest before taking on the Yale-Penn winner Sunday at noon for the tournament crown. They surely need it.