NEW YORK - For Columbia fans, it was a heartbreaker, but it was one tremendous basketball game. Columbia rallied from a 14-point deficit and cut the lead to one with minutes left, but Cornell escaped with a 66-63 win in Levien Gymnasium Saturday night.
Trailing by as many as 15 points with less than 10 minutes to play, Columbia got two free-throws by Mark Cisco to start a Columbia rally. After Cisco hit a jumper with nine minutes remaining, Grant Mullins grabbed a defensive rebound, which resulted in a layup by Brian Barbour with 8:11 to play to cut the lead to nine.
The teams traded baskets for just over a minute, but Cisco hit a layup off a pass from Mullins and Noah Springwater came up with a block and a rebound to set up a Barbour three pointer with 6:29 to play. Barbour's three, assisted by Rosenberg, cut the lead to six.
With 3:34 left to play, Shonn Miller hit two free-throws to extend the Cornell lead to eight, but Barbour hit a three on the ensuing play to cut the lead to five. The Lions used that momentum during the next sequence. Columbia got a defensive rebound from Maodo Lo, and Cisco found Barbour after an offensive rebound. Barbour collected the ball at the top of the key and hit a triple to cut the lead to two with 2:48 to play, and excite the crowd of 2,583 fans.
As was the story with most of the game, Cornell extended the lead with two free throws, and neither team scored again until the eight second mark, when Barbour scored on a circus shot layup in traffic and got fouled. He took a while to get up, but hit the foul shot and cut the lead to one with eight seconds remaining.
The Lions were ready with tough defense on the in-bounds play, but Alex Rosenberg was called for a foul. Galal Cancer hit both free throws to ice the game for the Big Red.
Columbia still had an opportunity to tie the game with 4.8 seconds remaining, but Barbour's shot hit the left side of the rim.
Neither team shot well, with Cornell shooting 38.8-percent for the game, and Columbia shooting at a 36.1 clip.
The difference in the game came from the free throw line, where Cornell shot 25-29, while Columbia shot 11-17. Columbia made more shots from the floor (22-19) and more three-pointers (8-3) than Cornell.
Barbour led the team with 15 points, three assists, three rebounds and a steal. Lo added 11 points. Rosenberg was a tremendous spark for the Lions with 13 points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal. The highlight of the night was a monster John Daniels dunk in the second half. Daniels, who finished with five points, six rebounds and an assist caught the pass and dunked over a jumping Shonn Miller for an old fashioned three-point play.
G. Cancer led Cornell with 19 points. Josh Figini had 12 in the win.
Columbia (9-7, 1-1 Ivy League) returns to action on Friday, February 1, at Penn. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m.