After its first Ivy weekend sweep in five years, the men’s basketball team (18-11, 7-5 Ivy) went back to its splitting ways, beating Dartmouth (10-16, 3-9 Ivy) on Friday before falling at Harvard (24-4, 11-1 Ivy) on Saturday.
For the past two years, the Lions have put in surprisingly competitive performances against Harvard, considering that their games against the Big Green—perennially far worse than the Crimson—have been close as well.
On Friday night, the Light Blue finally looked like the team that could take care of business against seventh-place Dartmouth. The Lions took an early double-digit lead, and while the Big Green closed the gap to three by halftime, Columbia quickly widened the margin and held on for an 84-72 victory.
Junior forward Alex Rosenberg was dominant, leading all scorers with 31 points with only one missed shot—an attempt from downtown in the final minute. He finished 6-for-7 from the field and a perfect 17-for-17 from the free-throw line.
“He’s one of the best players in the league—he’s just proven that—and is just willing us to victories,” Columbia head coach Kyle Smith said. “He’s a tough matchup, and hard to guard—you do it that many times in a row, it’s not a fluke.”
The Light Blue also shot nearly 60 percent from the field and 52 percent from beyond the arc—a big reason why it was able to pull away from Dartmouth, which nearly hit half its shots in its own right.
But when Columbia’s hot shooting evaporated the following night in Boston without a commensurate defensive improvement, the results were disastrous. Harvard shot 60 percent from the field and 62 percent from beyond the arc en route to an 80-47 shellacking of the Lions.
“They just brought it to us. They out-hustled us, out-rebounded 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—with 11:39 to play in the first half, it had seven turnovers and only four points. And before the game was 12 minutes old, a layup from Harvard guard Brandyn Curry extended the Crimson’s lead to 26-6.
The Light Blue was able to cut its deficit. It trailed by 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—guard Laurent Rivard sunk a three for Harvard. The Crimson quickly restored its 20-point lead, and after Rivard converted a four-point play, its lead went north of 30 for the first time.
“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.”
“They just got easy buckets. They got dunks, alleyoops, layups—not much you can say,” Lyles said. “It didn’t help that they were on fire—that they weren’t missing.”
Rivard was consistently left open on the perimeter and took advantage, scoring 21 points on 6-for-8 shooting from long range in his final home game with the Crimson. Fellow Harvard senior forward Kyle Casey also had a good performance, scoring 10 points but—more notably—limiting Rosenberg, the Ancient Eight’s leading scorer in conference play, to just 10 as well. Rosenberg and first-year forward Jeff Coby were the only Lions to score in double figures.
Columbia closes its regular season next weekend, hosting Penn and Princeton.