Updated 11/27 at 2:33 p.m.
Even a 14-point Columbia win wasn't without its tense moments.
After letting American (1-4) back into the game in the second half, the Lions (4-3) managed to make some timely shots and hung on for a 61-47 win.
Neither team generated much offensively in the early going, more than content to play a slow, halfcourt game. But after hitting just one of their first six field goal attempts, the Lions started knocking them down, making 12 of 20 over the rest of the half, including four of nine from beyond the arc. A dunk and layup on back-to-back possessions by first-year forward Luke Petrasek pushed the Lions' lead to a game-high 18, and they led 33-20 at halftime.
“It looks like so far, when we've stayed with our offense, we've played well,” junior forward Alex Rosenberg, who scored 11 points in the first half, said. “Everyone gets easy shots.”
But, as has become the norm with the Light Blue, the big lead didn't last.
American knocked down five of its first six shots after the break—three from guard Darius Gardner, who led the Eagles with 15 points and three steals—cutting its deficit to just six points. Back-to-back treys from Petrasek and junior guard Meiko Lyles pushed Columbia's lead back to 13, but the Lions began missing shots again. A steal and layup from center Tony Wroblicky cut the Eagles' deficit back to six with 7:19 to play, as American hung within striking distance.
Lions head coach Kyle Smith credited Columbia's defense for keeping it in front during the second half, during which the team made just six field goals.
He also pointed to a “hustle play” by Rosenberg with a little under nine minutes to go and Columbia up by nine as a momentum changer. Rosenberg reacted quickly to grab the rebound of a missed three-pointer by Petrasek and was pushed out of bounds, drawing a foul.
“We're starting to play that way,” Smith said. “Where you're playing with aggression. Where you're not afraid to fail.”
Coming out of a timeout, the Lions again got a couple of key back-to-back swishes. Sophomore guard Maodo Lo made a layup, and followed it up with a three to put the Light Blue up by 13 with under 2:30 to play. The Americans were forced to take quick threes and foul, and the Lions managed to hang on for the win.
“It's a sign of our maturity,” Smith said.
Petrasek led the Light Blue with a career-high 19 points and four boards, while Rosenberg pitched in with 11 and Lo with 13.
The Lions are next in action Sunday at Elon.
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