It came down to one final shot, but men’s basketball prevailed over Harvard 65-62 after the Crimson’s Siyani Chambers missed a potentially tying last-second heave.
The Light Blue (8-8, 3-1 Ivy) struggled from the free-throw line the entire game, but just as the Crimson (11-6, 3-1 Ivy) edged near, senior forward Jeff Coby made a free throw with 1:34 to go, ending a Harvard comeback catalyzed by Corey Johnson’s two three-pointers.
After Coby’s bucket, the two teams traded misses, and Harvard looked poised to turn the tables. But Crimson point guard Bryce Aiken got whistled for a charge, and the ball went to the Light Blue with a near-full shot clock.
Columbia’s first-year guard Mike Smith was swatted on a layup attempt with 14 seconds to go, but the Light Blue recovered the ball and swung it to the open senior forward Luke Petrasek.
“When I got it I was just going to let time run out, but then I heard Nate screaming at me that the shot clock was at two, so I was like ‘alright, I’ve got to get this off,’” Petrasek said. “I just pulled it.”
Petrasek’s attempted three-pointer clanked off the back of the rim. Chambers collected the rebound and charged down the court for a last second 25-footer, but it missed the mark, capping a narrow win and a weekend sweep for the Light Blue, which beat Dartmouth on Friday.
The game also started off neck-and-neck between the Lions and the visitors. On the backs of a strong first-year class showing, the Crimson bullied in the low post to gain a slight 20-18 advantage with 8:23 left in the first half.
In that first stretch, the Light Blue didn’t convert on many of its field goal attempts, but a run ignited by a thunderous slam—a heat-of-the-moment stepover by sophomore forward Lukas Meisner, and a three-pointer by sophomore guard Quinton Adlesh—gave the Lions some momentum.
“That’s just what they were giving us,” Adlesh said. “In every game, teams are keying in on other guys, so it’s the role-players’ job that when you’re open you can step up and make some.”
The two buckets were the launching pad for what ended up being a 23-to-6 point run for the Light Blue, littered by more treys, more dunks, and some scrappy play. The stretch allowed for Columbia to enter the half up 41-26.
Junior guard Nate Hickman further padded the run by bringing down the house with a crowd-pleasing slam and a perimeter strike of his own, while Meisner and Adlesh each swished another three.
“I love the kid [Adlesh],” head coach Jim Engles said. “I expect that from him … He does what he’s supposed to do and he makes big shots because he’s a tough kid—he’s not afraid to take tough shots like he did [in the first half].”
But that pace didn’t exactly carry into the second half.
Though Hickman opened the second period with a pair of two-point buckets and the Light Blue were up 48-35 five minutes into the half, Harvard responded with an impressive nine unanswered points. Seth Towns, one of the Crimson’s five contributing first-years, scored six of those points, finding the gaps in the Light Blue’s 2-3 zone defense to bring it within four points, 53-49 with 10 minutes to go.
The rest of the Crimson took advantage of those defensive weaknesses, as the team remained within striking distance for the next four minutes. But a strong baseline drive by Petrasek allowed the 93.6 percent free-throw shooter to sink two free throws, and Coby followed with a smooth lay-in to put the Light Blue up 61-54 with 5:17 left.
Coby ended the contest with 13 points—enough to co-lead the Lions in scoring with Hickman.
“It was like an out-of-body Jeff,” Engles said. “He was legitimately crazy out there … He was so locked in and his activity and his physicality are sorely needed by our team. He’s obviously taken over that leadership mantle.”
Chambers edged close enough to bring the contest into overtime with his final shot, but the Crimson could not overcome the Light Blue lead strengthened by Coby’s bucket.
In front of a packed Levien Gymnasium, the win gave the Lions a 3-1 Ivy record and a second-place standing in the Ivy League.
“With Ivy League play it always gets ratcheted up, and everybody knew that it was going to be a big game,” Hickman said. “We tried to rise to the occasion, the crowd showed us support, and that really helped us out.”