In a span of 26 hours over the weekend, the men's basketball team's Ivy title hopes appeared to crumble, come back to life, and crumble again, as it split a roller-coaster weekend at Princeton (13-6, 1-4 Ivy) and Penn (6-13, 3-2 Ivy).
“We call it the enemy,” Light Blue head coach Kyle Smith said after Friday's win about Columbia's recent losing history at Princeton. “The enemy is always trying to creep in and tell you things.”
Columbia fell behind quickly to Princeton, but an early second-half run knotted the score at 37. The teams struggled to score from then on, but the Tigers managed to pull ahead by five with a couple of minutes to play. And with the shot clock winding down on Columbia's next possession, the Lions' odds looked slim.
But sophomore guard Isaac Cohen hit a three to cut Columbia's deficit to two. Then, with under 30 seconds to play, junior guard Meiko Lyles drained a three off an inbound pass from Cohen to give Columbia the lead, and first-year forward Luke Petrasek got the stop for the Lions at the other end to seal the victory.
“I thought, if we stayed with it offensively we'd be all right,” Smith said he was thinking at halftime.
While the Light Blue won, it also lost starting sophomore guard Grant Mullins to injury for the weekend. Mullins collided with Princeton forward Will Barrett and hit his head on the floor. He was a game-time decision on Saturday at Penn and was eventually held out of the lineup.
Without Mullins, Smith said the team had to make some minor adjustments, and he thought it did adequately.
“Just surprised that we weren't better defensively,” he said. “But I think it was more credit to how Penn played, because our defense has been good all year.”
The Quakers' strength in the first half was forward Fran Dougherty. Possession after possession, Penn threw the ball to the senior in the post, who regularly scored with ease.
“He taught our guys a bit of a lesson there,” Smith said.
While Columbia did a better job denying Penn the ball inside in the second half—after scoring 19 points in the first half, Dougherty scored only four in the second—the Lions were unable to seriously close the gap, as Penn hit its outside shots.
“They executed very well. We couldn't take them out of it,” Smith said.
The Lions play at home next weekend against Harvard and Dartmouth.
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