NEW YORK – Columbia head coach Kyle Smith said earlier in the week Ivy League wins were “like gold.” The Lions’ 71-61 victory over Cornell on Saturday night may not have been pretty, but Smith and his team surely will not give it back.
Columbia led by as many as 18 points in the second half, but the Big Red refused to go quietly and pulled within seven points with just over a minute remaining. The Lions were able make enough plays down the stretch to win their Ivy League debut and improve to 12-6 on the season.
Alex Rosenberg was superb once again, scoring a game-high 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Isaac Cohen played a strong all-around game with 10 points, eight boards and five assists. Grant Mullins added 18 points, knocking down 11-of-13 from the foul line.
Columbia did what they do best to start the game, knocking down 3-of-4 from downtown to take a 9-4 early lead. After the Big Red (1-14, 0-1) pulled within one, the Lions brought the advantage up to 15-8 after a reverse layup by Isaac Cohen with 12:26 left in the half.
Despite shooting the ball well and playing strong defense, Columbia’s eight early turnovers kept Cornell in the game and Devin Cherry tied the game, 21-21, on an and-one play with 2:59 remaining in the frame.
Rosenberg answered with an old-fashioned 3-point play of his own to put the score back in favor of the Lions. A few moments later, Maodo Lo’s transition layup made it 29-26 with 24 seconds left, a lead Columbia would take into the locker room.
The Lions started the second half on a 5-0 run, spearheaded by the spirited play of Cory Osetkowski, in the first 1:45. Osetkowski scored three points and grabbed four rebounds in the spurt, pushing the advantage to 34-26.
Meiko Lyles capped an 8-2 spurt with a block on the defensive end and trailed the play to get an open look from the top of the key to give Columbia a 45-30 lead at the 14:25 mark. The Lions remained in control and Mullins gave Columbia its largest lead of the game, 48-40, with 6:01 to go.
Cornell methodically chipped away at the deficit, using its full court pressure, and trimmed the deficit to 63-54 at the 2:04 juncture. Just under a minute later, another Cherry 3-point play made it 67-60. However, the Lions knocked down 8-of-10 from the charity stripe to preserve the victory.
Columbia took better care of the ball in the second half, committing just four turnovers in the final 20 minutes, and outshot (47.6 percent – 39.6 percent) and outrebounded (32-24) Cornell. After the blistering start from long range, the Lions only hit on 5-of-17 for the game.
Cherry led the Big Red with 16 points.
The Lions will complete their home-and-home series with Cornell next Saturday, Jan. 25 in Ithaca, N.Y. Tip-off is slated for noon on the Ivy League Digital Network.