Updated March 1 at 11:30 p.m.
BOSTON, MASS.—In a must-win game for its Ivy title hopes, the men’s basketball team (18-11, 7-5 Ivy) put together arguably its worst performance of the season, falling behind by double digits within minutes and losing to the Crimson, 80-47.
With the win, Harvard (24-4, 11-1 Ivy) clinched a share of the Ivy title for the fourth year in a row, while Columbia was formally eliminated from Ancient Eight title contention.
“They just brought it to us. They outhustled us, outrebounded us. They were moving harder,” junior guard Meiko Lyles said. “I couldn’t pinpoint any one thing. They just brought it to us like we weren’t ready.”
The Lions looked extremely poor in the early going. It took nearly four minutes before they even got on the board. The Light Blue committed turnover after turnover offensively—at one point, it had seven turnovers and only four points, all from first-year forward Jeff Coby, who led the team with a career-high 11 points. And before the game was 12 minutes old, a layup from Harvard guard Brandyn Curry extended the Crimson’s lead to 26-6.
“You don’t know for sure when something gets that bad,” Columbia head coach Kyle Smith said. “It’s uncharacteristic of this team.”
While the Lion offense eventually did start scoring, the defense was uncharacteriscally poor for most of the game. It failed to keep Harvard out of the paint more often than not—and in the rare moments it did, it left Crimson sharpshooters like guard Laurent Rivard, who scored 21 points on 6-for-8 shooting from downtown in the final home game of his Harvard career, wide open on the perimeter.
“We got out, competed, and then we wilted a little bit,” Smith said. “I took the technical early in the game, trying to get some fight in us. I thought we did a good job, we rallied back. ... Just too big of a hill to overcome.”
The Light Blue was able to cut its deficit. It trailed by just 11 late in the first half, and after sophomore guard Maodo Lo sliced through the Crimson defense for a layup early in the second half, the deficit was down to 10. But that was as close as the Lions got. Harvard swingman Wesley Saunders knocked down a pair of free throws, and a little later, after a three from Light Blue first-year forward Luke Petrasek cut Harvard’s lead to 11, Rivard responded with a three of his own.
“When things went south in the second half, we broke,” Smith said. “When it seemed like they needed to get a bucket or get to the foul line, they were able to get there.”
After shooting over 40 percent from the field up to that point, Columbia once again began missing shots and allowing Harvard to get open looks all over the court. The talented Crimson took advantage and pulled away.
“They just got easy buckets. They got dunks, alley-oops, layups—not much you can say,” Lyles said. “It didn’t help that they were on fire—that they weren’t missing.”
“We got whipped,” Smith said.
Columbia closes its regular season next weekend, hosting Penn and Princeton.