Updated 11/16 at 1:00 a.m.
The men’s basketball team put up a valiant fight in East Lansing, but ultimately failed to hold off No. 2 Michigan State, falling 62-53 at the Breslin Center.
After falling behind early, the Lions (1-2) rallied and took a lead into the half. Columbia kept it going for much of the second half too, leading by as many as seven. But things began to unravel for the Light Blue late in the game. Columbia was held scoreless for the final 4:27, as the Spartans (3-0) came away with a hard-fought win.
With the Lions down 54-53 with 3:28 on the clock, Spartans forward Adreian Payne made a free throw that triggered a 9-0 run by Michigan State. In that stretch, Columbia’s offense completely fell apart, at one point committing back-to-back shot-clock violations.
“It’s not an easy place to play,” Lions head coach Kyle Smith said of Breslin, adding that the team’s youth also made it difficult for Columbia to close out the game down the stretch.
“We’re young, we don’t know … which guys need to step up,” Smith added.
Though Columbia was unable to come away with the win, the Lions did turn what many expected to be a lopsided game into a competitive contest to the very end.
“Really proud of how we competed in a tough environment,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of things we need to get better at. But to play the No. 1—well, probably will be the No. 1—team in the country down to the last couple minutes—have opportunities—should help us going forward.”
The Lions fell behind early, as the Spartans opened up with a 9-0 run. But Columbia finally got on the board when sophomore guard Isaac Cohen hit a pair of free throws 4:43 into the game.
“I think that was big, just getting the lid off the rim,” Cohen said. “Getting guys more comfortable, and realizing that we could play with this team.”
The Lions quickly clawed their way back, and a three-pointer by sophomore guard Maodo Lo gave the Light Blue its first lead of the night, 12-11, with 10:07 to play in the half. The rest of the first half was tightly contested before a Cohen layup with three seconds to go put the visitors up 26-22 at intermission.
Columbia came out strong to start the second half, extending its lead to seven when Lo hit another three to put the Lions up 38-31.
“As the game went on, I thought we ran our offense really well and got a lot of good shots,” Cohen said. “We stuck to the game plan.”
But Michigan State chipped away at the deficit behind Payne, who scored four straight to cut the Lions’ lead to 40-37. Another four points, this time from guard Gary Harris, brought Michigan State to within two. And with 10:19 to play, guard/forward Branden Dawson tied the game at 44.
The Spartans went up for the first time since 8:07 to play in the first half shortly thereafter, when Harris was fouled on a layup that put the home team up 48-46 with 7:28 left. He went on to make the free throw, extending Michgan State’s lead to 49-46.
Columbia never recovered, as the Spartans held on to avoid the upset.
Lo led Columbia with 12 points. Payne had 26 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Spartans.