NEW YORK - Trailing by 21 points with 11:30 left to play, Yale came back to mount a furious rally capped by a Reggie Willhite layup to defeat Columbia 59-58 in front of 2,442 fans at Levien Gymnasium on Saturday night.
After a hot shooting performance the night before vs. Brown, Columbia came out strong again from the field in the first half. The Lions made 50 percent of their shots from the field and hit five of eight three-pointers and led 30-23 at halftime.
Twelve turnovers by the Lions kept Yale within striking distance in the first half but Columbia attacked aggressively to start the second half and opened up a 51-30 lead at the 11:30 mark on a jumper by Mark Cisco. Cisco posted his fifth double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
After Chris Crockett's breakaway layup after a pass by Meiko Lyles made it 53-33 with 9:56 to play, Yale's Austin Morgan scored five straight points to cut the deficit to 15.
The Lions still led by 15, 55-40, on a driving layup by Brian Barbour at the six-minute mark but Yale's full-court pressure led to several Columbia turnovers. Yale ripped off a 10-0 run over the next minute and a half to get within five, 55-50 on a Greg Mangano three-pointer.
Meiko Lyles answered with a three ball of his own on Columbia's next possession to make it a 58-50 game with 4:20 left.
Willhite converted back-to-back buckets for Yale and then found Jesse Pritchard alone in the far corner for a three-pointer that cut the Columbia lead to one, 58-57 with 37 seconds left.
Yale forced a Columbia turnover in the backcourt on the Lions' next possession and Willhite's driving layup gave the Bulldogs their first lead since the 9:15 mark of the first half.
Columbia had a chance to tie or go ahead with 3.2 seconds left but could not convert two free throws. After Greg Mangano's first foul shot rimmed out with 2.1 seconds, a desperation heave fell short and Yale escaped with its sixth Ivy League win of the season.
"We stopped guarding," head coach Kyle Smith said after the game. "We got comfortable and didn't sort out defensively in transition. [Yale] is a good team and Willhite wasn't going to let them lose."
Lyles led the Lions with 17 points and three rebounds. Barbour finished with 10 points and seven assists.
Willhite led all scorers with 24 points, five assists and had seven steals. Mangano was held to one point in the first half but finished with 11 for Yale.
Columbia is back in action on Friday, February 17 at Princeton at 7 p.m. The game will be televised live nationwide on ESPNU.
Columbia had 16 assists on 24 made field goals .. the Lions shot 52.2 percent from the floor ... Yale made 41.8 percent of its shots .... Columbia outrebounded Yale 29-27 ... it was alumni weekend at Columbia ... the blue team defeated the gray team in the annual alumni game 58-50 behind 15 points from Patrick Foley '10.