Updated on Feb. 15 at 12:35 a.m.
Down by 12 with 10:52 to go against the two-time defending Ivy champion Crimson, things were not looking good for Columbia.
But behind junior forward Alex Rosenberg and sophomore guard Maodo Lo, the Lions clawed their way back and managed to send the game first to overtime and then to double overtime. Columbia (14-10, 3-4 Ivy) couldn't seal the win, though, as Harvard (19-4, 6-1 Ivy) ultimately came out on top, 88-84.
"Great college basketball game, we came out on the short end," Columbia head coach Kyle Smith said. "Very heated."
After reeling off a 16-3 run in the middle of the second half, the Crimson was cruising, up 49-37.
But Columbia didn't go away, as a pair of Lo free throws and a three by junior guard Meiko Lyles cut the Crimson lead to seven.
The Lions weren't able to cut it any closer until Lo got to the line with 4:57 left in the game following a miss by guard Siyani Chambers on the front end of a one-and-one for Harvard.
Lo made them both, and Columbia edged to within five.
Then with 3:31 to go, Rosenberg drilled a three to make it 62-60 as the crowd exploded, and after yet another back-and-forth stretch, Rosenberg got to the line and nailed a pair of free throws to knot it at 64-64.
The Light Blue got ahead briefly, but after a tense final stretch, the score stood even at 68-68 at the end of regulation after Lo couldn't get the game-winner to go.
"He's a good one-on-one player," Smith said of Lo. "I thought it was a good chance—he actually said he got hit, I haven't seen it, we'll see—but you know, they got a kind whistle the next ending so it would have been nice if we got that chance to win it."
The game went into overtime following Lo's miss, and Rosenberg starred in the extra period.
He nailed a critical fall-away jumper as the shot clock expired to put the Lions up 71-70, following a pair of free throws by Harvard forward Steve Moundou-Missi at the other end, but neither team could stay ahead for long. With 18.9 seconds left and the scored tied at 73, Columbia had the ball for what could have been its last possession.
For a fleeting moment, it looked like Rosenberg would be the hero after he hit a go-ahead layup with 2.3 seconds left. The decibel level at Levien reached uncharted highs—but the shot was called back following a questionable offensive-foul call.
"I just kind of tried to make a play, clock was winding down," Rosenberg said. "I'm glad it went in. I didn't expect a charge to be called, but at the same time I'm not the one making the calls."
The game headed to a second overtime amid a storm of boos from Columbia fans.
This time the Lions couldn't hold Harvard back. Guard Laurent Rivard hit a three to put the Crimson up 82-77 with 59 seconds remaining, and after a busy final minute Harvard came away with the 88-84 win.
"Certainly, for us to be able to turn the page from last weekend—after a Saturday night loss at home—I thought this was a critical game for us," Crimson head coach Tommy Amaker said.
Rosenberg led all scorers with 34 points, while Lo finished with 20. Moundou-Missi and Chambers each had 22, while Crimson guard/forward Wesley Saunders finished with 19.
The Lions will be back in action against Dartmouth at 7 p.m. on Saturday night at Levien.
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