Princeton nearly upsets Kentucky
Tigers' comeback falls short, as No. 4 seed Wildcats win on a late layup by Brandon Knight
March 18, 2011, 12:24 am · Updated March 18, 2011, 12:00 am·
On an NCAA tournament opening day filled with drama, Princeton fell just shy of adding to its storied history of upsets.
The 13th-seeded Tigers lost to fourth-seeded Kentucky, 59-57, on a last-second shot by Brandon Knight — the star freshman’s only bucket of the game.
Though the Wildcats (26-8) entered the East Regional second-round matchup as 13-point favorites, the game remained close throughout. Princeton (25-7) trailed by one at halftime and tied the game on a jumper by senior guard Dan Mavraides with 38 seconds left.
Knight, a former McDonald’s All-American guard, ran down the clock before getting a screen from junior guard Darius Miller. Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year Kareem Maddox switched onto Knight, who raced past the 6-foot-8 forward and floated a layup off the backboard with two seconds left.
Maddox’s subsequent near-fullcourt heave at the buzzer fell way short.
The loss dropped the Tigers’ all-time NCAA tournament record to 13-28 — in their first appearance since 2004 — meaning they remain tied with Penn in program tourney wins (the Quakers are 13-25).
One of those 13 Princeton victories came in 1996, when current coach Sydney Johnson led the team as a player to a monumental 43-41 upset over defending national champion UCLA. The following year — Johnson’s senior season — the Tigers lost to fifth-seeded California by just three.
They topped fifth-seeded UNLV in 1998 for their last tournament win.
The 13-year drought almost ended Thursday, as Princeton shot 46 percent from the floor and turned the ball over just six times. Surprisingly, the Tigers outrebounded the athletically superior Wildcats, 28-26.
As usual, Princeton stayed in the game with a balanced offensive attack. The team’s four double-digit scorers — Maddox, Mavraides, junior guard Douglas Davis and sophomore forward Ian Hummer — all reached double digits, led by Mavraides’ 14 points.
Hummer, named second-team All-Ivy last week, posted 11 points and eight rebounds.
But the underdogs couldn’t contain Kentucky’s six-foot-10, 275-pound forward Josh Harrellson, who pulled in 10 boards and posted 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting.
The win improved the Wildcats’ all-time tourney record to 104-46, including 13 Final Fours and seven championships. They advanced to a Saturday matchup with fifth-seeded West Virginia, which topped Clemson Thursday.