Men’s basketball gave away a sizable second-half lead to fall short in its first home matchup against Army 88-83 on Wednesday.
After the Light Blue established a 73-64 advantage off a ferocious baseline slam from sophomore forward Lukas Meisner with 9:03 left in the second half, an ensuing spell of poor offensive execution and critical turnovers let Army regain a 78-77 lead with 3:20 to go. The two teams traded buckets in the waning minutes, but Army was able to hang on en route to a five-point victory.
Junior guard Nate Hickman accounted for much of the Light Blue’s offensive attack, scoring 20 points in the first nine minutes of the second half, and 30 for the game But despite Hickman’s outburst, critical turnovers from the Lions’ leading scorer initiated Army’s decisive run.
That swing in fortune—a 14-to-4 run—capped a contest marked by dramatic lead changes.
Head coach Jim Engles’ usual starters, including first-year guards Mike Smith and Jake Killingsworth, began the game on a strong note, preventing the Black Knights from finding the basket until over four minutes into the contest, when Army’s Adam Roe nailed a contested triple. From there, the Black Knights charged ahead, taking a 14-9 lead with 12:31 to go in the first half thanks to a stretch of sharp-shooting.
The Light Blue bounced back, aided by productive bench minutes from sophomore guard Quinton Adlesh and senior forward Chris McComber, and led by as many as eight points in the opening period of play.
Meanwhile, Army’s shooting caught fire toward the end of the half, with five Black Knight three-pointers coming in the final three minutes—three of which came from guard Jordan Fox.
The Lions’ senior forward Luke Petrasek then responded with a nifty spin-move layup before the buzzer, but Army still held a 45-38 lead at the half.
The second half opened with a Meisner putback for Columbia, but it was Hickman who took control of the game for the Light Blue in that nine-minute stretch. His 20 points handed Columbia an 11-point lead before Fox led the Army comeback, punctuated by a fall-away jumper with 1:42 left to seal it.
Despite the defeat, the strong play of Petrasek and Hickman continued to propel the Light Blue. Petrasek came away with a double-double—his second in as many contests—while Hickman scored a game-high 30 points for the Lions. The junior guard had an opportunity to even the score with eight seconds left in the game, but his three-point attempt fell short in the end, all but assuring the Army victory.
Men’s basketball will next host Colgate on Saturday, with tipoff set for 2 p.m. in Levien Gymnasium.
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