For the past few years, the Ivy League has been dominated by the Harvard Crimson. Others have taken a run at the conference crown, but it has been extremely tough to knock the Crimson from the top of the conference totem pole.
Entering the 2015-16 season, the Crimson were dealt a serious blow when it was announced that Siyani Chambers would miss the entire season due to injury. It was a similar situation to the one the Columbia Lions faced a season prior.
Coming off a strong 2013-14 season, the Lions lost Alex Rosenberg for the 2014-15 season due to injury. A season that was filled with optimism fell off the rails rather quick, much like Harvard’s did this season.
This season, Harvard hasn’t been their dominant selves in the Ivy League, and the likes of the Lions have taken full advantage. On Friday, the Lions were looking to keep pace atop the conference standings, while Harvard was looking to get a big road win and play spoiler.
The outcome of Friday’s game was never in serious doubt, as Columbia was either tied with Harvard or leading the Crimson for all but 11-seconds of the game. The Lions cruised to the 90-76 victory over the Crimson inside Levien Gymnasium.
The Lions wasted little time getting on the board, as Rosenberg made a layup while getting fouled just 1:01 into the game. He made the ensuing free throw, and the lead was quickly 3-0 for Columbia. They would push their lead to 5-2 shortly thereafter.
Harvard would respond, getting back-to-back baskets from Evan Cummins and Agunwa Okolie, putting the Crimson ahead 6-5.
They would hold that lead for a grand total of 11 seconds, and it was the only time in the game they held a lead.
Jeff Coby was fouled on Columbia’s possession following the basket from Okolie, and he proceeded to make both free throws to put Columbia back in front. From there, they would never relinquish the lead, and would slowly build on it as the game progressed.
The free throws from Coby kicked off an 11-0 run for the Lions, pushing their lead to 16-6 with 14:39 to play in the opening half.
Columbia would keep building on their lead as the half wore down, but credit the Crimson for continuing to fight. Tommy McCarthy made a layup to bring Harvard to within a single point with 5:23 to play, but they weren’t able to take a lead.
Zena Edosomwan missed the front end of a one-and-one less than 30 seconds later, and Columbia held onto their lead as the half came to a close. Maodo Lo hit a three pointer just before the buzzer to send Columbia into the locker room with a 39-34 lead.
The second half was more of the same for the Lions. They had a firm grasp on the lead, and didn’t give it up despite Harvard making several pushes and getting close on multiple occasions.
Cummins hit a layup to cut the deficit to 2 at the 18:21 mark, only to have Luke Petrasek get a layup of his own to push the lead back to 4 at the 18:02 mark.
Canadian Corey Johnson hit a three pointer at the 14:22 mark to bring the Crimson back to within 2, but they weren’t able to capitalize. Patrick Steeves missed two free throws that would have tied the game at 49-all, allowing Columbia to maintain their lead and put a halt to Harvard’s threat.
Whatever Harvard threw at Columbia, the Lions seemed to have an answer every single time.
From then on out, Columbia slowly pulled away, and the Crimson never really threatened the lead down the stretch. Columbia stretched their lead to as many as 17 points in the closing minutes, cruising to the 90-76 victory over Harvard.
Harvard had a balanced scoring attack on the night, but they weren’t able to match the production of Columbia’s stars. Four of Harvard’s starters scored in double figures, including Agunwa Okolie, who finished with a team-high 20 points to go along with 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
Corey Johnson added 15 points, while Zena Edosomwan finished with 10 points and 4 rebounds.
When they needed it most, Columbia got big performances from their stars on Friday night to propel them to victory. Alex Rosenberg scored a game-high 23 points, while Maodo Lo added 22 points of his own in the win.
Jeff Coby added 12 points, while Grant Mullins chipped in with 9 points.
With the loss, the Harvard Crimson (10-15, 2-7) find themselves in an unfamiliar spot in the Ivy League standings: tied for last place. Despite not having the NCAA Tournament in their future this season, the Crimson could still play the role of spoiler this season. They will look to get back on the right track on Saturday when they visit the Cornell Big Red.
The Columbia Lions (18-8, 7-2) needed a win to stay in contention for the Ivy League crown, and they did just that. A post-season tournament will come calling for the Lions following the season, but they have their sights set on the NCAA Tournament. Columbia will look to take another step towards their goal on Saturday when they welcome the Dartmouth Big Green to town.