LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The heartbreak will linger. How may it not if you end up denied historical past and if you believed you would remind the world that an Ivy League basketball staff can crash a Ultimate 4 social gathering?
When the ache relents — and it’ll — the solar will come up and the Princeton Tigers will maintain their heads excessive and burst with pleasure for authoring a Basketball 101 thesis they gained’t overlook.
Each staff professes to be a brotherhood, however this Princeton staff really is one. However simply because you’re a Dream Group doesn’t imply you get to take pleasure in a dream ending.
And, alas, Creighton shattered that dream with an 86-75 NCAA Event South Area semifinal victory on the KFC Yum! Middle. The defeat value Princeton greater than a puncher’s probability in opposition to No. 5 seed San Diego State, which upset the area’s prime seed, Alabama, 71-64.
Sophomore guard Blake Peters was choked with emotion and struggled to get the phrases out whereas seated in a quiet Princeton locker room … after the ocean of orange had given them a farewell tribute and the Tigers applauded up at them.
“It’s been an important run,” Peters started. “This senior class is superb. … I’m gonna miss them a lot. They set the usual once we are available in subsequent yr, it’s Ivy League championship-or-bust, NCAA Event-or-bust.” Sniffle.
“It’s robust however … stroll out right here with my head held excessive [sniffle] …
“Not too unhealthy for a bunch of nerds.”
To a person, the Tigers believed that they had been Future’s Darlings, a brotherhood that reminded former Princeton nice Invoice Bradley of his 1970 champion Knicks for the best way they shared the ball and hit the open man and left their egos at Pete Carril’s outdated backdoor.
To March Insanity America, Princeton was one other fairytale romance following within the footsteps of Saint Peter’s a yr in the past and FDU this yr, a fifteenth seed that believed Something Is Doable and had T-shirts manufactured to remind everybody that something really is.
May it’s that these had been greater than proverbial eggheads immersed in courses similar to Introduction to Metaphysics and Epistemology or Multivariable Calculus?
Yet another win and they might have been eating once more at Vincenzo’s … yet one more win and they might have stood 40 minutes from historical past, 40 minutes from the Ultimate 4 58 years after Bradley led his Tigers there.
Someplace Up There, Pete Carril is crying. However when the tears dry, applauding.
“Clearly I’m overwhelmed with unhappiness,” senior Keeshawn Kellman mentioned. “We fought actually laborious however we simply couldn’t get it executed. On the identical time, trying again at it, this was simply an incredible run. I wouldn’t commerce it for the rest on the earth having the ability to make it to this huge stage with all my brothers, guys that I really like, that I’ve been round for 4 years.
[Sniffle] “It’s the perfect factor on the earth.
“Neatest thing in my life ever.”
The Tigers so badly needed one other magical March second, the sort their coach, Mitch Henderson, loved when he assisted Gabe Lewullis on the backdoor layup that eradicated defending champion UCLA 43-41 in 1996 in Carril’s last season as head coach.
“Wasn’t that simply excellent?” Henderson mentioned after that win. “A backdoor go to win the sport. A backdoor!”
No again door to the Elite Eight.
“Gotta be elite to be one of many final eight groups standing,” Peters mentioned.
Senior 6-foot-8 ahead Tosan Evbuomwan (24 factors, 9 assists, six rebounds) and sharpshooting Ryan Langborg (11-for-17, 26 factors) stored the Tigers within the hunt. However the Bluejays killed them in transition and 7-1 Ryan Kalkbrenner (22 factors) performed Goliath to Princeton’s David when Baylor Scheierman (21 factors) wasn’t launching daggers.
“Clearly positively disillusioned that the season’s coming to an finish,” freshman Caden Pierce mentioned, “but additionally on the identical time, I’m actually pleased with all that this group has achieved.”
When Kellman pressured Kalkbrenner out of bounds towards the tip of the primary half and flexed, the Princeton crowd erupted. Then Peters drilled a 3-pointer and Princeton had a 37-33 lead. And the festive orange-clad followers had been screaming “Let’s Go Tigers” after they weren’t screaming “Dee-fense … Dee-fense.”
Alas, magic carpet rides can disappear at any given maddening March second.
Creighton stormed again to grab a 52-45 lead within the first two minutes of the second half when Kalkbrenner transformed a 3-point play and shortly it was 56-45.
Henderson known as timeout. There was 15:48 left in Princeton’s Something Is Doable Dream. It didn’t work.
“They had been the higher staff in the present day,” Matt Allocco mentioned.
It was 68-52 Creighton with 12:19 left in Princeton’s Something Is Doable dream, when the Tigers turned up the warmth on protection. Creighton buckled. A 3-pointer by Evbuomwan lower the deficit to 68-60. Nonetheless time … 7:48 left.
The Princeton crowd pleaded and exhorted.
The Tigers couldn’t get nearer than seven.
“It simply looks as if we touched so many individuals,” Peters mentioned.
Sure, they did. They usually touched each other. From sea to shining sea. As distant as Newcastle, England, Evbuomwan’s residence.
“We’re going to have a fair larger bond, and it’s going to be particular,” Evbuomwan mentioned. “I’m certain it’s going to final all of our lifetimes.”
Henderson has been the conductor of a basketball symphony that made candy March music.
“Hold your heads up,” he advised the gamers. “You probably did one thing superb for the college.”
The evening the music stopped gained’t change any of it.