The men’s basketball team turned over the ball on its first two possessions during overtime against Penn—but this wasn’t what caused its loss. While credit must be given to the Quakers for their final, winning play, the Lions might have found themselves victorious if they hadn’t allowed Penn to grab four offensive rebounds in the five-minute overtime period.
“We gotta get those balls,” head coach Kyle Smith said in an interview on Tuesday. “Those are things you can control—that’s not necessarily talent.”
After the Light Blue’s (14-12, 3-7 Ivy) second turnover, Penn senior center Mike Howlett was fouled. He made the first free throw, but missed the second. However, the Lions couldn’t get the rebound, so the Quakers had another chance to expand their two-point lead. And they did. Sophomore guard Miles Cartwright hit a long three to put Penn up 59-54. There were still three minutes left to play, and the Light Blue senior guard Chris Crockett hit a three at the other end to cut the lead to just two.
But once again, Penn grabbed two crucial offensive rebounds to keep its lead. Two possessions later, with the score still 59-57, senior guard Zack Rosen missed a jumper, but sophomore forward Fran Dougherty managed to grab the rebound. Penn head coach Jerome Allen took a timeout, and the Quakers got to reset and try again. Rosen missed again, but senior guard Rob Belcore grabbed yet another offensive board for Penn. Ultimately, Cartwright missed a three, and the Lions were finally able to come down with the ball—thanks to senior forward Blaise Staab—but now there were only nine seconds left to play.
While not as obvious, rebounds were also a problem the night before. For the first time all year, the Light Blue was outrebounded by another Ivy League team. Princeton had 30 boards to Columbia’s 25.
“I’m a little bit concerned because they’re a poor rebounding team,” Smith said about the Tigers. “It was a big part of our scout that we were sending more guys to the board than we normally do. Second half we rallied up, so we did a little better, but we couldn’t keep them off the boards.”
In conference play, the Light Blue has the second-highest rebounding margin with +4.0. Harvard leads the league with +4.5, but the Lions were stronger on the boards when they played up at Lavietes Pavillion.
“We’ve been good at it, so we want to maintain being good at it,” Smith said.
Columbia has the third-best rebounder in the league in junior center Mark Cisco, who is averaging 8.1 boards a game. And that’s after his 11-rebound performance this weekend. Cisco had six boards in the overtime loss to Penn, none of which came during the overtime period.
“I probably left him out there too long, because normally he’s one of the best rebounders in the league,” Smith said of Cisco.
Rebounds will prove crucial in Friday’s matchup at Yale. During their heartbreaking collapse against the Bulldogs at home—in which they gave up a 21-point second-half lead—the Lions had just one offensive rebound after intermission. Yale had six. While the Light Blue outrebounded the Bulldogs overall, Yale had three more boards than Columbia in the second half.