NEW YORK – On the final weekend of the regular season, Columbia and Yale were not playing for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Each team has an outside shot at a postseason berth, but each team was simply playing for pride.
That was evident on both ends of the court as a hard-fought game throughout regulation turned into a double-overtime thriller. When the buzzer sounded for the final time, it was Yale who came out on top, 87-81 over a resilient Columbia team.
The Lions trailed 12-0 early but battled back to get within two points, 18-16, midway through the first half before Yale gained some separation and went into the locker room with a 33-26 halftime advantage. Zack Crimmins scored 10 points during the half and Meiko Lyles had seven to bring the Lions back into the contest.
Columbia again rallied to start the second half, twice cutting the Yale lead to a single point on baskets by Asenso Ampim, who finished with his third double-double during the Ivy League season with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Yale eventually pushed its lead back to 12 points on a three-pointer by Austin Morgan that gave the Bulldogs a 62-50 lead with 2:56 left. Then Brian Barbour went to work.
Barbour fed Ampim for a rim-rocking dunk to cut the deficit to 10, then drew a foul on the next Columbia possession and sank two free throws. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Barbour picked Morgan's pocket underneath the hoop and laid it in to make it a six-point game. After Yale's Isaiah Salafia missed the front end of a one-and-one, Barbour again drew a foul on a drive to the hoop and sank two more free throws to make the score Yale 62, Columbia 58 with 1:16 to play.
Columbia then fouled Yale's Porter Braswell, who made one of two and Barbour darted back down court to convert a layup to get the Lions within three.
Trailing 63-60, Columbia forced a missed jumper and Barbour snatched the weakside rebound away from 6-10 Greg Mangano to give the Lions the ball. For the third time in the final two minutes, Barbour drew a foul, then stepped to the line to can two foul shots. With Columbia trailing 63-62 with 25 seconds left, the Lions fouled Morgan to lengthen the game and Morgan made his two free throws to push Yale's lead back to three, 65-62.
With the clock winding down after two Yale missed free throws, Noruwa Agho received a screen near the top of the key and with two defenders flying at him, buried an enormous three-pointer from 25 feet that tied the game at 65 with nine seconds left.
Bypassing a timeout, Morgan took the ball the length of the court and flipped up what appeared to be an open layup as the buzzer sounded but Ampim came from behind to swat away the shot, sending the game into overtime and sending the Levien Gym crowd into jubilation.
In the first overtime, Columbia never led and trailed Yale 76-71 with two minutes left after a Reggie Willhite layup. Agho, who scored nine of Columbia's 11 points in the first extra session, nailed a three-pointer on the next possession to make it a two-point game.
With less than a minute left, Agho then tied the game at 76-76 on a driving, twisting layup. With Yale having a chance at the final shot, Columbia forced a turnover by Morgan after he dribbled the ball out of bounds with five seconds left.
Columbia got the ball to Agho on its final possession of the first overtime and Agho pulled up for an 18-footer that bounced off the front rim, off the backboard and just out of the cylinder as time expired with the game still tied at 76.
Barbour had fouled out in the first overtime and with both teams running on fumes, they geared up for another five minutes of basketball. Yale again jumped out to the lead on two free throws by Mangano, who finished with 20 points and 16 rebounds.
Morgan's three-pointer with the shot clock winding down gave the Bulldogs an 82-77 lead with 41 seconds left. Agho's basket on the next Columbia trip made it a three-point game but the Lions would not get any closer as Yale made five of six free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Yale improves to 15-12 and 8-5 in the Ivy League with the win while Columbia's record drops to 14-13 and 5-8 in the league.
The Lions are back in action on Saturday, March 5 vs. Brown at 7 p.m. in the season finale at Levien Gymnasium on Senior Night.
Noruwa Agho scored 20+ points for the third straight game ... Agho and Mangano entered the game having scored the same amount of points through 26 games and each had 20 points in the double-overtime affair tonight ... Brian Barbour, who entered the game second in the nation in free throw shooting, made eight of eight from the line in the game ... Zack Crimmins finished with a career-high 14 points and eight rebounds ... the 14 points for Meiko Lyles tied his career best ... all five Yale starters scored in double figures ... Columbia's bench outscored Yale's bench 19-2.