Wednesday night saw two teams, who are going in different directions this season, face off in a big non-conference showdown. The Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks were looking to put their road demons to rest for at least one night, while the Columbia Lions were looking to continue their dominance this season inside Levien Gymnasium.
After the first half, it looked as though the Hawks were heading towards yet another road loss this season, and the Lions would roll easily to their 8th home win. Instead, the Hawks came out fighting in the second half, making Columbia work down to the final buzzer.
In the end, the Lions were too much on their home floor. Columbia pulled away in the closing seconds, thanks to clutch free throw shooting in the final 30 seconds, and the Lions escaped with the 81-75 victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore.
Maryland-Eastern Shore came out of the gates on fire, going on a 10-5 run over the first 2:42 of the game, scoring on each of their first four offensive possessions. Four different players found the score board, and the run was highlighted by back-to-back three pointers from Ahmad Frost and Devin Martin.
The first half was back and forth for the most part, and the Hawks didn’t look like a team who had 12 road losses to their name on the year. They were not intimidated, and were hanging with the Lions, going shot-for-shot.
With the score tied up at 25-all, Canadian Grant Mullins scored 5 straight points to kick-start a 16-5 run for the Lions that broke the game open in the first half. When all was said and done, Columbia had a 41-30 lead.
The Hawks wouldn’t back down. going on a mini 6-0 run of their own to cut into the deficit before the half was out. Maodo Lo connected on a three-pointer at the buzzer to put an end to the Hawks’ run, and send the Lions into the break with a shot of momentum and a 44-36 lead.
Like the first half, the Hawks opened the second on a lengthy run to take back control of the game. A 13-0 run propelled the Hawks into the lead, capped off by a three-pointer from Ryan Andino.
The Hawks were able to keep the Lions off the scoreboard for over 8 minutes to start the second half. Columbia got their first point of the half at the 11:52 mark when Jeff Coby made 1-of-2 free throws. Martin answered with a jumper to give the Hawks a 51-45 lead with just over 11 minutes to play.
Just when it looked like the Lions were going to let the game slip through their fingers, they started to find their groove on offense. Including his one made free throw, Coby would score six straight points for the Lions to bring them right back into the game, and get them back on track.
The back-and-forth action would continue down the stretch as both teams were looking to come away with the win. Bakari Copeland gave the Hawks a 67-64 lead just before the under-4 media timeout.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, they were unable to hold onto the lead, and the Lions took full advantage. Columbia closed the game on a 17-8 run to push them ahead for good, and the Hawks couldn’t keep pace.
The Hawks had several opportunities in the closing minute to make the game closer, but Copeland went 1-of-2 from the free throw line and Martin missed a pair of three point jumpers that spelled the end.
Columbia was able to fight their way back down the stretch, overcoming their scoring drought to open the second half to score the 81-75 win over the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks.
Despite the loss, the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks got another big performances from their stars. Devin Martin fell just short of a double-double on the night, recording 21 points and 9 rebounds in the loss. Big man Dominique Elliott also continued his strong play as of late, recording 21 points and 6 rebounds of his own.
Bakari Copeland added 19 points and 2 assists, but it wasn’t enough to lead the Hawks to the win.
Forward Alex Rosenberg missed his fourth-straight game for the Lions, but others stepped up in his absence to help get the job done. Maodo Lo scored a game-high 25 points to go along with his 6 assists, while Grant Mullins added 15 points and 4 rebounds of his own.
Forward Luke Petrasek added 9 points and 3 rebounds, while Jeff Coby added 11 points and 6 rebounds in increased minutes off the bench.
Playing away from Hytche Arena hasn’t been too kind for the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (3-14, 0-2), as Wednesday night was their 13th loss away from home on the year. If they want to come close to last season’s win total (18), they will need a big-time showing in MEAC play. The Hawks return home for their next game, which is against the Morgan State Bears on January 11th.
It took some extra work down the stretch, but the Columbia Lions (10-6, 0-0) were able to score their 8th win inside Levien Gymnasium this season. Even without Rosenberg in the lineup, the Lions have enough talent to contend for the Ivy League title. Columbia returns to the court on Saturday afternoon when the Central Pennsylvania College Knights pay a visit to New York, NY.