CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—It wasn’t the result they wanted, but the Lions forced the No. 23 team in the nation to fight for every point.
The Columbia men’s basketball team (13-9, 2-4 Ivy) fell 57-52 to Harvard (20-2, 6-0 Ivy) Saturday night in the Crimson’s most contested conference game yet.
“I’m proud of these guys,” Light Blue head coach Kyle Smith said. “We’re not content that we didn’t win, but we’re proud that our effort’s been very good. This was a 23rd-ranked team on its home floor.”
After entering the second half down by three, 30-27, the Lions relied on a concerted effort to prevent Harvard from pulling away.
The largest Crimson lead of the night came after senior guard Laurent Rivard—who finished with a game-high 20 points—hit a jumper with 6:51 to go to put his team up by eight.
The Lions rallied back to cut the lead to just two points with less than three minutes remaining in the game. But a turnover on the Light Blue’s next possession and then a missed jumper ultimately gave Harvard the opportunity to retake control and hold on for the victory.
“It’s just one stop here and there,” junior guard Brian Barbour said. “It’s such a small game of inches, and we’ve got to find some way to get it done.”
Barbour was Columbia’s leading scorer with 15 points, but Saturday was truly a team effort by the Lions’ offense, as their bench outscored Harvard’s 16-1.
Sophomore guard Van Green played considerable minutes for the second straight game, tallying five points and two assists. Senior forward Blaise Staab’s game-high seven rebounds helped the Lions match up with Harvard’s big men—senior Keith Wright and junior Kyle Casey.
Junior center Mark Cisco, who had eight points and five rebounds, was tasked with defending Wright, and the two fought hard on both ends of the court.
“He made it hard to score, and I made it hard for him to score,” Cisco said. “He’s a great player, but I think we did well against him.”
Cisco and freshman forward Alex Rosenberg did get into foul trouble guarding Harvard’s frontcourt, but the Lions did not let the officials’ calls faze them.
However, the Lions’ 19 fouls gave Harvard 32 attempts from the charity stripe. The Crimson only hit 21 of those attempts, but it was enough to edge out the Lions.
Going into the match, the Light Blue decided to adopt a playing style similar to Harvard’s, using most of the shot clock on every possession.
“I thought it was excellent,” Smith said. “It was our game plan. We were trying to shorten the game a little bit—play their ball.”
Even from tipoff, there was little separation between the Lions and the Crimson, as both teams drained three-pointers on their first possessions. The Lions shot 40 percent from the floor, hitting 20 field goals—four more than Harvard.
“I felt like we got good shots all night,” Barbour said. “We played the way we wanted to play. We just came up a little short. I thought we controlled the game, a lot of it, and did the tempo we kind of wanted.”
“It’s frustrating that we can’t break through,” Smith said. “It’s six tight games, we’re 2-4, and we don’t have enough to show for it.”
The Lions will try to improve their record when they face Brown at Levien Gymnasium on Friday.