Updated on March 10 at 7:48 p.m.
Columbia ended one of its best seasons in recent memory on a sour note, falling to Princeton at home the night after posting a convincing win over Penn.
The Lions (19-12, 8-6 Ivy) started their weekend strong, topping the Quakers (8-19, 5-8 Ivy), 74-55, on Friday to secure a winning record in Ivy play for the first time since the 1992-93 season. But Columbia suffered one of its more lopsided defeats of the Ivy season the following night, as the Tigers (19-8, 7-6 Ivy) were in control almost cover-to-cover in a 74-64 win.
Columbia had trouble getting things going on both sides of the ball against Princeton. Defensively, the Lions gave the Tigers a lot of easy looks, particularly in the open floor.
“Defense in transition was very poor tonight,” Columbia head coach Kyle Smith said Saturday after the game. “That was disappointing, because that’s not getting beat, that’s beating yourself.”
Princeton jumped ahead early behind guard T.J. Bray—who finished with 25 to lead all scorers—and led by double digits, 21-11, with 9:11 left in the half.
But the Lions rallied. After a dunk and an easy two in the paint from junior center Cory Osetkowski, they cut the Tigers lead to 23-20. Sophomore guard Isaac Cohen then made it 23-22 with a reverse layup.
Columbia was unable to take the lead, though, and after a late first-half push, Princeton entered the break up by eight, 32-24.
Osetkowski played well in the second half too—he finished with 19 points—but Princeton continued to make things difficult for the Lions in the final 20 minutes.
“We both run similar offenses, so we know how to guard their stuff, they know how to guard our stuff,” Osetkowski said. “They did a good job of denying and making us drive, and they were very sticky on the defensive end.”
With the Lions struggling to get into a groove, the Tigers led by double digits for much of the second half. Columbia kept competing until the final buzzer—Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson even said that “the last three minutes was different from the rest of the game”—but it was too little, too late as Princeton comfortably closed out the win.
The Penn game the night before went much better for the Lions, as Columbia avenged last month’s loss to the Quakers with a blowout victory.
Despite sloppy play in the early going, the Light Blue was ahead comfortably for most of the first 20 minutes, leading by as many as 14. Penn guard Tony Hicks hit a three as time expired to make it 40-30 Columbia going into the break.
The Light Blue took control in the second half. A three-pointer by junior guard Steve Frankoski gave the Lions a 58-35 lead at the 13:51 mark and capped off a 10-0 Light Blue run.
But the game got briefly got ugly in second with 7:53 to play.
As he was getting back on defense, Hicks punched Columbia junior guard Meiko Lyles, and after a lengthy video review, the Penn guard was ejected for the jab to Lyles’ face. Hicks was ejected at Levien last year as well after picking up a pair of technicals.
“I didn’t actually see it. [Associate head coach] Carlin Hartman saw it,” Smith said on Friday, adding that he was incredulous at first despite the fact that Hartman backed up Lyles’ account of the incident. “Meiko was like, ‘He punched me in the face,’ or something, and I said, ‘No he didn’t’—I was kind of rude.”
But Smith decided to burn a timeout and check, and the officials ultimately gave Hicks the hook.
Though Lyles briefly lost his cool, the Lions quickly refocused, and Columbia stayed ahead the rest of the way, closing out the 74-55 win.
The victory gave the Light Blue 19 wins on the year, marking the program’s highest total since the 1969-70 season and putting Columbia in position to contend for a postseason berth.