Men’s basketball nearly bounced back from a daunting deficit in the second half of a road trip match against Miami (FL) on Wednesday, but its comeback attempt ultimately fell short.
After being down by as much as 13 points and never once leading after 17:46 left in the first half, the Lions (4-6) keyed a 14-to-3 point run to claw back to within two points of Miami, 51-49, with 12:59 left in the game. Much of that scoring run against the highest-ranked opponent the Light Blue has faced this season was fueled by efforts from senior big men Luke Petrasek and Jeff Coby, who started in place of injured sophomore forward Lukas Meisner. The duo accounted for nine of those 13 points and ended the game as Columbia’s top two scorers.
However, after the two Lions sparked the comeback bid, Miami guard Ja’Quan Newton hit a free throw to start a retaliation effort that all but assured a home victory for the Hurricanes. The guard ended up totalling a near double-double, with 22 points and nine rebounds. He was also part of a contingent of guards that limited the Lions’ leading scorer, junior Nate Hickman.
Despite his efforts, Newton still catalyzed one of the Light Blue’s strongest rallies by relinquishing nine of the Hurricanes’ 20 total turnovers—the most of their season thus far. For the Light Blue, which employed a zone defense for nearly the entire game, that’s a high water mark in a season where it ranked second to last in the nation in opponent turnovers prior to Wednesday’s game.
But the Lions themselves struggled with turnovers at times, as Miami forced seven in the first eight minutes to help double up the Light Blue 20-10 with 11 minutes left in the first half. Columbia began to stave off the Hurricanes’ pace at that point by handling the ball better but still couldn’t keep them from heading into the half with a 41-31 advantage.
From there, the Lions eventually narrowed the gap when Petrasek nailed a hook shot to cap the 14-to-3 run, but Miami bested them on the boards by six and shot 52 percent from the field in the half.
Head coach Jim Engles’ squad came five points from reclaiming a lead with 7:08 left in the game, but the Hurricanes’ athleticism and solid shooting in the paint allowed them to hover near a 10-point lead until the end.
“We hung around and we were able to get some opportunities, but they made some big plays when we needed stops,” Engles said. “We could have executed a little bit better at times, but after such a long layoff, I thought the guys competed very well.”