Updated Dec. 28 at 5:45 p.m.
Playing at the Barclays Center for the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival, the men’s basketball team went toe-to-toe with another strong opponent, but couldn’t hang on late and fell to St. John’s 65-59.
The Red Storm (9-3) went into halftime with a 37-30 lead and came out of the break strong, using an 11-4 run to take a 48-34 advantage. But using its 2-3 zone defense, Columbia (7-6) was able to stop the bleeding.
“We knew we were in for a dogfight,” St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin said of the Light Blue after the game. “It’s a team that plays a very cohesive brand of basketball, and we tip our hat to their efforts today.”
The Lions used a 17-2 run to claw their way back and go ahead. With 7:25 left in the contest, junior forward Alex Rosenberg drove into the lane and converted a floater to tie it up at 50. He was fouled on the play, and completed the old-fashioned three-pointer with a free throw to put Columbia on top 51-50. It was the Light Blue’s first lead since its 5-4 advantage with 17:24 left in the first half.
“We always stress taking care of the ball because we know our offense will come to us,” first-year forward Luke Petrasek said. “That’s basically all we were doing in that stretch, and it led to good things.”
“I noticed once we stopped their transition, it’s harder for them to get to us. And then we’re able to set up our offense,” sophomore guard Grant Mullins said. “And also just rebounding. If we rebound the ball and get second chances, then we give ourselves a good chance of scoring.”
But that lead would be short-lived, as St. John’s hit a layup to go back up by one with 6:53 on the clock, and used a 10-2 run to regain control of the game. Junior Meiko Lyles hit a three with a minute to go to make the score 60-56, but the Red Storm converted an and-one to get back up 63-56. Lyles would make another late trey, but it wouldn’t be enough, as St. John’s held on to win.
“When we were playing the way we wanted to, we had a pretty good shot,” Light Blue head coach Kyle Smith said. “And then when we were keeping them at half court, we were pretty good. But when it got stretched out, we didn’t do it.”
Columbia hit nine of its 18 threes, but shot just 38 percent from the field overall and turned the ball over 11 times. St. John’s defense had plenty to do with those marks, as it came up with seven steals and eight blocks.
“Their ability to block shots is impressive,” Smith said. “It’s really hard to simulate in practice, get ready for.”
“We held them to 38 percent, and that’s against a team that’s operating pretty effectively offensively,” Lavin said. “You’re not going to take everything away. Today they banged threes, but they shot 38 percent overall and we won the game.”
Though he was just 5-14 from the field and turned the ball over five times, Mullins led the Lions with 17 points. Three of his field goals came from beyond the arc. Rosenberg was second with 13 points, and Petrasek was the final Lion in double digits with 12. The rookie fouled out, but picked up six rebounds, four assists, and a block in the contest.
The Lions will be back in action on Monday when they head to Hamilton, N.Y., to face Colgate.
Kiera Wood contributed reporting.