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Princeton outlasts Cornell in first-place battle, 79-77

In a back-and-forth battle that lived up to the billing, Princeton was one possession better in a 79-77 win over Cornell on Saturday evening at a sold-out Jadwin Gymnasium. The Tigers (23-3, 11-2 Ivy) rallied past the Big Red (21-6, 10-3 Ivy) in the final two minutes to drop the Big Red out of first place in the Ivy standings.

Nazir Williams scored a game-high 23 points and added six rebounds and five assists, while Chris Manon netted 16 with six boards, three helpers and a pair of blocked shots in the loss as the lone double figure scorers. Cooper Noard and Guy Ragland Jr.each scored nine. The Big Red struggled from beyond the 3-point arc (9-of-32) and forced just six Tiger turnovers.

Caden Pierce had 23 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals, while Matt Allocco had 19 points and four boards on Senior Day. Xaivian Lee recorded a double-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and two assists in the win. The Tigers, meanwhile, outscored the Big Red 15-6 off turnovers – a difference-making total in a two-point contest.

The final 18 minutes saw 10 lead changes and five ties with neither team backing down. Princeton took the lead, then the Big Red scored eight straight to go back ahead. Cornell went up three, Princeton scored six in the blink of an eye. All the while, a capacity Jadwin crowd was on its feet.

Cornell never seemed rattled, answering each run with a big shot until it ran out of time. The visitors led as late as 1:56 remaining and the game was still tied with 75 seconds left before Pierce’s three-point play put the Tigers up for good at 74-71. Cornell fought back within a point on a pair of Williams free throws, but Pierce hit a tough bucket in the lane to go back up three. A Big Red miss with 35 seconds left forced the free throw game, and Cornell never got the ball back within a possession.

The Big Red opened the game on a 9-3 run and was up by as many as 10 in the first half before settling in and taking a 35-33 advantage at the break. Williams scored nine first half points on 4-of-4 shooting, including a pull-up jumper from 12 feet just before the halftime horn to put the visitors back in front after the Tigers knotted the game at 33-33. The home team shot 48 percent overall despite making just 3-for-17 3-pointers, connecting on 12-of-14 shots from inside the arc.

NEXT UP

• Cornell will look to close the regular season when it visits Columbia on Saturday, March 9 at 2 p.m. at Levien Gymnasium.
• The contest will be broadcast live on ESPN+.
• The Big Red will return to Levien the following weekend for the 2024 Ivy League Tournament.
• Cornell won the first meeting between the teams 91-79 on January 9 in the Ivy opener for both teams at Newman Arena.