“It hurt—bad,” Lions head coach Kyle Smith said after the men’s basketball team dropped a close conference game for the second consecutive night. After losing to Penn 66-64 on Friday, Columbia (11-7, 0-2 Ivy) once again found itself on the wrong end of a tight contest, falling to Princeton 62-58.
The games were eerily similar. In both matchups, Columbia held a narrow lead at the half that it saw slip away during a short lapse in the second half. On both nights the Light Blue found itself down by eight with about a minute and a half to play and staged comebacks that fell just short. Against both teams, junior point guard Brian Barbour put up a career-high 25 points and drove the Lions’ last-minute efforts.
“It’s a tough one to swallow,” Barbour said of the Penn game. “Coming off that bounce back ... I thought we had them—up six—and then that big swing when they went up eight really hurt us. We had a couple turnovers in a row there, which is what I think started it.”
Barbour was alluding to his team’s near comeback victory against the Quakers (9-9, 2-0 Ivy) the night before. Down by nine with just over two minutes to play, Columbia went on an 11-3 run to close the gap to just 62-61 with 18 seconds to play. Ultimately, that was not enough.
“We were just trying to pressure them up, speed them up, and make a little comeback at the end,” Barbour said of his team’s late-game surge. “We did a good job fighting back—we just have to finish it.”
The game was close throughout, but Penn (8-9, 1-0 Ivy) led for most of the contest. Both teams started off slow in the first half, with the score remaining tied at 2-2 until just about six minutes in. The Quakers, however, jumped ahead with a layup from sophomore forward Fran Dougherty at 14:01 and spent most of the half building on that lead. The Quakers benefited from poor shooting by the Lions, as the Light Blue made just six of its first 16 shots.
After Penn stretched its lead to six with under seven minutes to play, Columbia found its form and started chipping away. The Lions, led by Barbour, closed out the first half with a 12-2 run, putting them up 27-23 at intermission.
The lead was short-lived, as the Quakers regained their advantage on a jumper by freshman forward Henry Brooks less than two minutes into the second stanza. The Lions’ shooting woes returned—they made only 40 percent of their shots in the second half as opposed to nearly half of their baskets in the first.
Penn, on the other hand, went off in the second half, making 12 of its 20 shots and four of its eight three-pointers. The Quakers’ second-half surge was led and orchestrated by senior guard Zack Rosen, who seemed to make every tough shot down the stretch. Rosen scored 13 of his 15 points and dished out three of his five assists after halftime.
“There was a two or three minute stretch there where they went on an 8-0 run,” senior captain Steve Egee said. “We got to buckle down there.”
One of Rosen’s crucial buckets came with 2:06 remaining in the game. Up until that point, Columbia had kept it close, but the senior point guard’s jumper put his team up by nine. The game appeared to be over, but the Lions fought back. With 1:46 remaining, Barbour made two free throws to cut the deficit to seven, and sophomore guard Meiko Lyles followed that up with a three-
pointer, making the score 59-55 with 1:23 to play.
Rosen again made a clutch jumper, giving Penn a 61-55 lead with just 45 seconds to play. Barbour responded immediately by knocking down two foul shots after an inexplicable foul by the Quakers’ Rob Belcore on Columbia’s inbound. Light Blue freshman forward Alex Rosenberg followed Barbour’s lead and made two free throws of his own just five seconds later. The score was now 61-59 Penn with 40 seconds to play.
The Lions fouled Belcore, who made just one of his two free throws. After Columbia junior forward John Daniels grabbed the rebound, Barbour tore down the court and drove straight to the basket for a layup that cut Penn’s lead to one with 18 seconds left.
Columbia fouled again, but this time senior guard Tyler Bernardini made both, putting his team back up by three. Barbour responded with a jumper to bring the deficit back to one—this time with just six seconds left to play—but another foul on and pair of successful free throws by Bernardini put the game out of reach for the Light Blue.
The Lions, who were plagued by bouts of poor shooting all night, particularly struggled from beyond the arc, making just three of their 19 attempts from downtown. Penn made four of its 13 treys, all of which came in the second half. Barbour led all players with 25 points and six assists.
Much like the game against the Quakers, the first half of Saturday night’s contest was close throughout. Princeton (10-8, 1-1 Ivy) held a slight lead for most of the first eight minutes, but the Lions took the lead back with five consecutive points from Barbour.
The Tigers came back and held the lead for most of the rest of the half, but Barbour once again turned it on when the Lions needed him, scoring six straight points to put them up by one. After two Princeton free throws, Lyles scored his only field goal of the night to give Columbia a 24-23 advantage at the half.
Lyles is the team’s second best scorer, averaging 10.2 points per game after scoring just 15 points this weekend. Against Princeton, he was one for nine from the floor.
“I don’t know,” Smith said of Lyles’ struggles. “He’s a good player—he just had a bad weekend. I don’t know what happened there. He’ll come out of it.”
Unlike in the game against Penn, Columbia held onto its lead for much of the second half. After a three-pointer by Barbour put his team up by six with 11:11 to play, however, the Lions again went cold. During the next six minutes, Princeton went on an 11-0 run that Columbia was ultimately unable to recover from.
Barbour led all scorers with 25 points, while sophomore guard T.J. Bray had the most for Princeton with 12. Junior center Mark Cisco had a game-high 10 rebounds for the Lions and chipped in 12 points. Rosenberg was the Light Blue’s only other player in double digits, with 10 points.
Columbia returns to the court on Saturday when it hosts Cornell in Levien.