MEN’S BASKETBALL: Yale falls 74–65 to Princeton, turns attention to Vandy in NIT
The Yale men’s basketball team rallied back from an early deficit in the Ivy League title game but ultimately fell just short in their comeback bid against Princeton.
Photography Editor Tim Tai
PRINCETON, N.J. — After a crushing defeat in the finals of Ivy Madness, the Bulldogs still have more to play for this season, but it will not be in the NCAA tournament.
In a thrilling Ivy League championship game against Princeton (21–8, 10–4 Ivy), with a March Madness berth on the line, the Yale men’s basketball team (21–8, 10–4) fell 74–65.
Playing in front of a sold-out crowd at Jadwin Gymnasium — Princeton’s home court — the Bulldogs came out slow offensively, going scoreless for the first four minutes while the Tigers rattled off 12 quick points.
“Our team got off to a slow start, and the energy and effort it took to climb back in the game took its toll on us,” head coach James Jones said. “I’m extremely proud of this group. We’ve had a great season thus far.”
Yale stormed back from the early deficit with their own 11–0 run and held multiple two-point leads throughout the game. A first-half buzzer-beater three — featuring a controversial no-call after lots of contact — gave the Tigers a four-point lead heading into the locker room.
Guard Bez Mbeng ’25 powered the Bulldogs’ offense for much of the night, scoring 18 points while forward Matt Knowling ’24 had 14. Mbeng also shouldered a heavy defensive burden, guarding several of Princeton’s star offensive players and sliding over in help-side rotations to contest shots at the rim.
“I think that for Bez, he figured out he was really good at the start of the season,” Jones said. “He worked really hard in the summer, put pressure on himself. I’ll tell you this, what he’s done this year will dwarf in comparison to what we’ll see from him next year.”
The Elis, however, struggled to defend Princeton’s Tosan Ebvoumwan, a 6’9” forward who operated as a primary ball handler for much of the game. Evbuomwan finished with 21 points to go along with four assists.
Princeton came out firing early in the second half, opening up another double-digit lead of 52–41 with 12 minutes left to play. At that point, both teams found their rhythm offensively and they traded three-pointers back-and-forth for a stretch in the middle of the half. However, the Bulldogs once again rallied to make the game competitive.
As the game reached its final stages, Mbeng and Knowling made their presence felt. Mbeng knocked down a late three-pointer and another jumper to bring the Blue and White back within three points at the 2:52 mark. One possession later, guard August Mahoney ’24 had a one-and-one opportunity at the free throw line with 2:18 remaining and the score 61–58.
But Mahoney — who had made 63 of 67 free throw attempts this season — missed the front end, giving the Tigers back the ball. Princeton shot 13–14 from the free throw line in the remaining two minutes, sealing Yale’s fate before mobbing the court and cutting down the nets.
“It’s tough right now, we put so much effort in throughout the year to be in the position that Princeton’s now in, so seeing their celebration was tough,” Mahoney said. “But we’re gonna take this to heart and I promise you we’ll be back.
The season, however, is not over. The Bulldogs are assured a spot in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) by virtue of finishing first in the Ivy League regular season standings. The NIT is a 32-team, bracket-style tournament.
The Blue and White will face No. 3 Vanderbilt (20–14, 11–7 Ivy) in the first round of the NIT.
The Elis are also well-positioned for another strong campaign next season. Four of their five starters will be returning, while guard Yassine Gharram ’25 and forwards Jack Molloy ’25 and Danny Wolf ’26 — key rotational players this season — are all returning as well.
Frontcourt duo EJ Jarvis ’23 and Isaiah Kelly ’23 will leave a question mark in Yale’s frontcourt, but top recruit Samson Aletan ’27 should help fill that void.
Aletan — a 6’10”, athletic forward — is the highest-rated recruit in Yale basketball history. Considered a top-20 prospect out of Texas, he received offers from power five programs such as Texas, TCU, Texas A&M, and Houston before committing to Yale.
Additionally, the Bulldogs will welcome Casey Simmons ’24 to the court next season, a transfer student from Northwestern.
Simmons is a 6’6” swing player known for his athleticism and defensive ability and was rated as the No. 1 prospect in Massachusetts and the No. 92 player in his high school class by 247Sports. He played 27 games as a freshman for Northwestern last season before entering the transfer portal and should make an immediate impact for the Blue and White.
The newcomers will join a highly-motivated group that will be hungry to avenge this season finale next year.
“It’s not a great position to be in but we’ve had this feeling before,” Jones said “They’ll take this defeat and let it generate some energy and effort to be better going forward for next year.”