15th-seeded Princeton beats Missouri 78-63 to reach Sweet 16

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – As the final minute ticked off the clock, the Princeton fans started chanting “Sweet 16! Sweet 16!” and coach Mitch Henderson cleared the bench with the victory easily in hand.

This upset was no small-school fluke against a more heralded team. It was a thoroughly dominating performance that sent Princeton to a place it hadn’t been in more than a half-century.

Blake Peters made five 3-pointers in the second half and Princeton shocked another power conference team to reach the NCAA Tournament regional semifinals for the first time in 56 years by beating Missouri 78-63 on Saturday.

“The world looks at us as two upsets,” forward Tosan Evbuomwan said. “But I feel like we’re supposed to be here. We have a lot of confidence in one another, what we’re doing. There’s definitely no letup with this group.”

The No. 15 seeded Princeton (23-8) followed up a first-round win over Pac-12 tournament champion Arizona by overwhelming seventh-seeded Missouri (25-10) of the Southeastern Conference from the start.

The Ivy League school known for giving powerhouses scares and occasionally pulling off upsets a generation ago has reached the round of 16 for the first time since 1967 when only 23 teams even made the tournament.

“I have no words for you,” Peters said. “We have such an unbelievable section (of fans) here. I have the best teammates in the world. I love each and every one of them. when we go out and believe in each other, anything is possible. I know it’s cliche, but anything is possible.”

Princeton will play the winner of Sunday’s game between Baylor and Creighton in the Sweet 16 in Louisville, Kentucky, on Friday night.

The Tigers will be the second Ivy League school to make the Sweet 16 in the past 43 tournaments, joining Cornell in 2010. No team from the academically prestigious league that doesn’t give athletic scholarships has gone further since Penn made the Final Four in 1979.

“I’ve always dreamed of playing deep into the tournament,” said Henderson, a player on Princeton’s teams in 1996 and ’98 that won first-round games. “As a player, got to the second round a couple times. Never got beyond it.”

This marks the third straight year a team seeded 15th made it to the Sweet 16, following Oral Roberts in 2021 and fellow New Jersey school Saint Peter’s last year. The only other time a 15 seed made it this far came in 2013 when Florida Gulf Coast did it.

Ryan Langborg led Princeton with 22 points and Peters added 17.

DeAndre Gholston scored 19 points and Noah Carter added 14 for Missouri, which was seeking its first berth in the Sweet 16 since 2009.

“We were able to get the lead one time,” coach Dennis Gates said. “We held the lead for 30 seconds in the entire game. Every time we got the lead or when they had the lead, we cut it to six, they came back down and did what a good team would do: Make a shot or make a play.”

Princeton showed no signs of being outclassed against another power conference team, controlling the play from the start. Keeshawn Kellman had two dunks and a blocked shot in a span of 16 seconds midway through the half.

Princeton built the lead to 10 points on a corner 3 by Zach Martini and went up 33-19 on a drive by Evbuomwan.

Missouri responded by scoring the final seven points of the half to go into the break down seven.

Every time Missouri threatened early in the second half, Princeton had an answer with Peters hitting five 3-pointers. The fourth gave Princeton a 62-43 lead and Missouri never threatened after that.

“Blake Peters has been making shots coming off the bench for us for weeks,” Henderson said. “This is a very, very confident group. We are so thrilled to be going to the Sweet 16. It is an absolute pleasure being around these guys. They just grit their teeth and they do it.”


Princeton: Princeton was more than a match physically with Missouri with a 44-30 rebounding edge and 16 offensive rebounds that led to 19 second-chance points. Caden Pierce led the way with 16 rebounds.

“They’re playing absolutely fearless,” Henderson said. “They’re unafraid of anyone.”

Missouri: Coach Dennis Gates’ first season at Missouri was a successful one with 25 wins but still had a disappointing finish.


Princeton will look for its first Elite Eight appearance since 1965 when Bill Bradley was the star.

Missouri beats Utah State for first March Madness win since 2010

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Missouri used a second-half scoring spurt from Kobe Brown to win its first NCAA Tournament game in 13 years, beating Utah State 76-65 on Thursday.

Brown hit three 3-pointers in a span of just over three minutes to fuel a 13-2 run that turned a two-point deficit into a 62-53 lead.

“He’s our MVP. I can tell you that,” coach Dennis Gates said. “Ultimately when he started making some shots in that second half, he immediately made eye contact. He said he’s here. I said, ‘Yes, you are. We can see.’”

The seventh-seeded Tigers (25-9) held on from there, stopping a six-game tournament skid with their first win since beating Clemson in the first round in 2010.

Missouri advanced to play 15th-seeded Princeton in the second round of the South Region. The Tigers upset No. 2 seed Arizona 59-55.

The 10th-seeded Aggies (26-9) have dropped their last 10 tournament games since beating Ohio State in the first round in 2001. The loss was also the 11th straight for a Mountain West team in the NCAAs.

“It’s really, really, really, really, really hard to win in college basketball,” coach Ryan Odom said. “These guys did it. They won enough to get an at-large bid here. Even though we didn’t get what we wanted in terms of advancing in the tournament, the guys did what they have done all year and that’s continue to fight regardless of the circumstances.”

The game was close until Brown and D’Moi Hodge took it over midway through the second half by scoring 20 straight points for the Tigers.

“We don’t blink,” Brown said. “We felt them getting the momentum, but we couldn’t show that. If we would have showed that, things would have went a lot different.”

Brown started the stretch with a dunk, followed by three straight 3s. Hodge took over from there by hitting twice from long range around a dunk of his own.

Hodge scored 23 points for the Tigers. Brown had 19.

Taylor Funk scored 16 to lead Utah State and Steven Ashworth added 12. The Aggies shot 4 for 24 from 3-point range.

“There has to be some credit given to Missouri, their style of defense, what they like to do to teams,” Ashworth said. “At times, even if you’re getting open looks in those situations, you can be a little rushed into those shots. I think the first half we had a little bit of that. At the same time it was we just weren’t hitting the shots we normally make.”

The Aggies got off to a sloppy start with six turnovers in the first six minutes but still only trailed 35-31 at the half despite missing all 11 attempts from 3-point range.

They missed their first two from long range in the second half before Ashworth finally made a 3-pointer.


Utah State: The frustration for the Aggies was evident when they got called for a bench technical when one of the reserves argued a no-call midway through the second half. Odom heatedly argued the call before getting restrained by an assistant. Nick Honor missed both free throws for Missouri.

Missouri: The Tigers played without team captain Tre Gomillion, who injured his groin during the SEC tournament. If he is able to return next round, that would provide a big boost.


The Tigers will be looking to advance past the first weekend of the tournament for the first time since 2009 when they went to the Elite Eight.

No. 25 Mizzou tops No. 17 Tennessee, 1st trip into SEC semis

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – First-year coach Dennis Gates is in a hurry to turn Missouri into champions and remains unhappy his Tigers missed the Southeastern Conference’s regular-season title.

Now they’re targeting the program’s first SEC Tournament crown and must go through the league’s regular season champ to get there.

Nick Honor hit a 3-pointer with 1:45 left to put Missouri ahead to stay, and the 25th-ranked Tigers beat No. 17 Tennessee 79-71 Friday to reach the SEC Tournament semifinals for the first time since joining the league in 2012.

“We wanted to cut down nets, hold trophies, hang banners as the regular-season champs,” said Gates, who was hired last March. “I credit Nate Oats and his program for their successes. It has taken too long for us to be able to do that, and I want it more.”

The Tigers (24-8) will play fourth-ranked Alabama on Saturday. The Crimson Tide, the regular-season champ, never trailed beating Mississippi State 72-49 earlier Friday. Shortly after this latest victory, Missouri announced a one-year contract extension for Gates through the 2028-29 season.

Missouri won its fifth straight this season to snap a three-game skid in the SEC quarterfinals. The Tigers did it by knocking off the defending tourney champ in a taut game featuring 15 ties and 11 lead changes.

The last tie was at 69, and Honor put Missouri ahead to stay with his 3. Gates credited Honor with telling him during a timeout to give him a ball screen.

“Sometimes you don’t listen to your players. I listen to mine,” Gates said. “We gave him a ball screen, and he was able to knock down a big-time 3-point shot.”

The Tigers then forced a turnover on Tennessee’s inbound pass by Julian Phillips. D’Moi Hodge knocked down another 3 to give the Tigers their biggest lead of the game at 75-69 with 1:25 remaining. Missouri finished on a 10-2 run for the win.

Hodge led Missouri with 26 points, 17 in the second half. Kobe Brown added 24 and nine rebounds, and DeAndre Gholston had 10.

Tennessee (23-10) snapped a 41-year drought in this event by winning the tourney title in Tampa last year. Now these Volunteers go into the NCAA Tournament having lost four of seven overall.

“The biggest prize that we want to go after is still out there,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said.

Santiago Vescovi led five Vols in double digits with 17 points. Tyreke Key had 16, Jahmai Mashack 14, Olivier Nkamhoua added 11 points and 10 rebounds and Julian Phillips 10.

Missouri took the lead for the last time on a pair of free throws by Brown with 4:12 left.

The Volunteers led 33-30 at halftime thanks to Mashack answering a 3-pointer by Brown with 11 seconds left by beating the buzzer with his own 3. Mashack made it just after crossing the half-court line.


Tennessee has the best defense in all of Division I except against against Missouri. The Vols came in holding opponents to a nation-low 25.8% shooting from 3-point range and 36.4% from the floor. They also had been holding opponents to an average of 57.4 points a game.

Missouri improved to a perfect 9-0 in games decided by five or fewer points. The Tigers came into the postseason among eight teams unbeaten in such games and the only team with at least eight such wins. … The Tigers shot 60% (18 of 30) in the second half, and that included knocking down 7 of 13 (58.3%) outside the arc.

Brown said running against the Vols was the key.

“Hard to play defense when you can’t get back and get in front of the other team,” Brown said.


This was just the third full game for the Vols without point guard Zakai Zeigler, who tore his left ACL early in a win over Arkansas on Feb. 28. Barnes sees the final minutes where they miss Ziegler the most.

“We’re going to have to figure out what we’re going to do,” Barnes said.


The Volunteers now wait for the NCAA Tournament bracket announcement Sunday and lower seeding than expected when Tennessee was ranked as high as No. 2 earlier this season.

Missouri now has a chance to improve its own NCAA seeding while still chasing the program’s first SEC Tournament title.

Alabama’s Brandon Miller is AP SEC Player, Newcomer of the Year

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama freshman Brandon Miller is The Associated Press player of the year and newcomer of the year in the Southeastern Conference.

Texas A&M’s Buzz Williams was named coach of the year in voting by 14 reporters who cover the SEC.

Texas A&M guard Wade Taylor IV and Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe, last year’s national player of the year, were unanimous first-team picks. The other first-team selections are Missouri guard/forward Kobe Brown and Mississippi State forward Tolu Smith.

Miller was a first-team pick on all but one ballot, received 12 player of the year votes and 11 as top newcomer for the regular-season SEC champions and No. 4-ranked Crimson Tide. The 6-foot-9 forward is only the fourth freshman in the last 50 years to lead the SEC in scoring, averaging 19.6 points along with 8.0 rebounds. He is also tops in 3-pointers made, making 92 and hitting at a 40.4% rate.

Miller’s name surfaced in court testimony in the capital murder case of now-former teammate Darius Miles and another man in the shooting death of 23-year-old Jamea Harris near campus.

A police officer testified that Miles texted Miller asking him to bring Miles’ gun in the early morning hours of Jan. 15. Fellow freshman starter Jaden Bradley was also at the scene. Neither has missed a start or been accused of any crime. The university has described Miller as a cooperating witness, not a suspect.

A day after that testimony, Miller scored 41 points and hit the game-winning shot in overtime to beat South Carolina amid jeers from Gamecocks fans. Afterward, Alabama coach Nate Oats called Miller “one of the most mentally tough kids I’ve ever coached.”

The Aggies’ Taylor also received two votes as player of the year. LSU forward KJ Williams, Arkansas guards Ricky Council IV and Anthony Black each received a vote for newcomer of the year.

Williams received eight votes, Missouri’s Dennis Gates five and Alabama’s Oats one in the coach of the year balloting.

The second team included Council, Tennessee guard Zakai Zeigler, Williams, Florida forward Colin Castleton and Vanderbilt forward Liam Robbins.


Guard – Kobe Brown, Missouri, Sr., 6-8, 250, Huntsville, Alabama.

u-Guard – Wade Taylor IV, Texas A&M, So., 6-0, 185, Dallas.

Forward – Brandon Miller, Alabama, Fr., 6-9, 200, Antioch, Tennessee.

Forward – Tolu Smith, Mississippi St., Sr., 6-11, 245, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

u-Forward – Oscar Tshwiebe, Sr., 6-9, 260, Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Guard – Ricky Council IV, Arkansas, Jr., 6-6, 205, Durham, North Carolina.

Guard – Zakai Zeigler, Tennessee, So., 5-9, 171, Long Island, New York.

Forward – Colin Castleton, Florida, Sr., 6-11, 250, Deland, Florida.

Forward – Liam Robbins, Vanderbilt, Sr., 7-0, 250, Davenport, Iowa.

Forward – KJ Williams, LSU, Sr,, 6-10, 250, Cleveland, Mississippi.

Coach of the year – Buzz Williams, Texas A&M.

Player of the year – Brandon Miller, Alabama.

Newcomer of the year – Brandon Miller, Alabama.

— AP All-SEC Voting Panel: Rick Bozich, WDRB-TV, Louisville, Kentucky; Kevin Brockway, Gainesville Sun; Travis Brown, Bryan-College Station Eagle; David Cloninger, Post & Courier; Adam Cole, Opelika-Auburn News; Clayton Collier, WATN-TV, Memphis, Tennessee; Robbie Faulk, Starkville Daily News; Aria Gerson, The Tennessean; Bob Holt, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; Stefan Krajisnik, Clarion-Ledger; Dave Matter, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Sheldon Mickles, Baton Rouge Advocate; Mike Rodak, al.com; Marc Weiszer, Athens Banner-Herald.

No. 13 Arkansas rallies from 17 down to beat No. 20 Missouri

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Ricky Council scored 25 points and Joseph Pinion scored 13 off the bench as No. 13 Arkansas rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat No. 20 Missouri 74-68 on Wednesday night.

The Razorbacks (12-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) didn’t lead until back-to-back fast-break buckets from Council and guard Devo Davis provided a one-point advantage with 14:24 left. Pinion followed with a 3-pointer to cap a 9-0 run. Five minutes later, Arkansas went on another run, 7-0, to build the lead to eight points.

Missouri (12-2, 1-1) had stifled Arkansas and built its lead to 17 points with its zone defense in the first half, limiting the Razorbacks to 36% shooting from the field and 2 for 12 from 3-point range.

Arkansas coach Eric Musselman injected the little-used Pinion, a shooting specialist, into the game with the Razorbacks trailing by 10. The freshman scored his 13 points on 4 of 7 shooting, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range, in a career-high 27 minutes.

Council, who entered as the SEC’s third-leading scorer averaging 17.9 points per game, scored 21 of his 25 in the second half.

Missouri lost its lead on the interior on the glass. The Tigers’ zone failed in the second half as Pinion’s 3-point shooting forced it toward the perimeter. Arkansas shot 62% in the final 20 minutes and outrebounded Missouri, 40-23, for the game.

Davis joined Council and Pinion in double figures for Arkansas with 10 points.

Sean East led Missouri with 13 points, while Nick Honor and Kobe Brown added 12 and 11, respectively.


Arkansas has struggled most with teams who pack in defenses, but coach Eric Musselman’s team has shown itself capable of overcoming that strategy with its athleticism.

Missouri’s loss is barely damaging. The Tigers still own wins over Illinois and Kentucky and a road loss in an SEC game to a top-15 team won’t hurt the NCAA Tournament resume.


Missouri: Hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Arkansas: Travels to Auburn on Saturday.

Brown scores 30 as Mizzou blows out No. 19 Kentucky 89-75

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Missouri coach Dennis Gates used to listen with rapt attention as his mentor, the longtime Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, would tell him stories about his time coaching at Kentucky under Joe B. Hall.

Gates learned about the tradition. The passionate fan base. About what it means to be a college basketball blueblood.

“I knew good and well,” Gates said, “Kentucky was never going to call me. I knew.”

Good thing for the Tigers, who were more than willing to make the call.

With their 42-year-old first-year coach calling all the right shots Wednesday night, Kobe Brown and Missouri blew out the No. 19 Wildcats 89-75 in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

Brown finished with 30 points, and D’Moi Hodge had 15. DeAndre Gholston and Sean East II scored 12 apiece for the Tigers (12-1), who also pummeled then-No. 16 Illinois 93-71 last week and are off to their best start since 2013-14.

“You got to give them credit. That was what they did to us,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “Missouri would have beat a whole lot of teams the way they played tonight. They beat us pretty good.”

Missouri led by 12 at halftime and stretched it to more than 20 down the stretch, handing Calipari just his third loss in 14 SEC openers. The Wildcats had been 14-2 against the Tigers and 306-58 against unranked teams under him.

The Wildcats (8-4) could be unranked soon, and perhaps cede their place to the Tigers, who already were receiving votes this week. Their only loss under Gates came against fourth-ranked Kansas in their last game at Mizzou Arena.

Oscar Tshiebwe led Kentucky with 23 points and 19 rebounds, but most of his offense came at the foul line, where he was just 11 of 17. Cason Wallace added 19 points despite playing with four fouls down the stretch.

“I think we got a lot of work we need to do,” Tshiebwe said.

The Tigers got off to a quick start against the Wildcats – they like to play fast all the time – and built a 10-point lead by getting easy baskets in transition. And when they sped up too much, or Kentucky picked off a pass or one went flying into the seats, the Wildcats were unable to take advantage when they coughed up the ball themselves.

Not that shots were falling for them; Kentucky missed 11 of its first 12 from beyond the arc.

It’s not the first time the Wildcats have struggled to score. They plodded their way to a 60-41 victory over Bellarmine last month, and a couple of weeks ago, barely scraped past 50 points in a 63-53 loss to UCLA at Madison Square Garden.

The Tigers, meanwhile, entered fourth nationally in scoring, and it was evident as they built a 42-30 halftime lead.

Nothing changed in the opening minutes of the second half, either: Brown converted a three-point play for Missouri, the Wildcats’ Chris Livingston turned it over, Brown scored again and Livingston turned it over again.

Missouri’s lead eventually swelled to 50-32 with just over 16 minutes to go.

Kentucky spent the next five minutes slowly whittling it in half, closing to 56-47 when Lance Ware followed up a miss by Tshiebwe. But the Tigers answered with eight quick points to regain control, and they eventually got the lead over 20 points before cruising to a statement win over the Wildcats.

“Our biggest opponent is ourselves and our guys know that,” Gates said. “We don’t focus on the other team as much. We have to continue to move forward. These guys know that. We respect everybody we play but the most important opponent is the person we see in the mirror every morning.”


Kentucky could easily point to two freshmen in the starting lineup and blame its slow start on growing pains. But Sahvir Wheeler and Tshiebwe, the reigning national player of the year, are seniors, and there is plenty of experience in the lineup. And that makes the sloppy turnovers and poor shot selection even more troubling for the Wildcats.

Missouri was blown out by the Jayhawks 95-67 less than three weeks ago, and struggled mightily to beat Central Florida its next time out. But wins over the Illini and Wildcats are certain to raise some eyebrows around the country.


The Wildcats visit Louisville on Saturday.

The Tigers visit Arkansas next Wednesday.