CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Columbia trailed by just three points at halftime and got within two points late in the game but 23rd-ranked Harvard made enough plays down the stretch to defeat the Lions 57-52 in a hotly contested game on Saturday night at Lavietes Pavilion.
Coming into the game on Saturday night, the Lions knew they would face a hot team and a hot crowd. In front of a sold out gym, both teams played well to open the game. Harvard's Brandyn Curry hit a three-pointer at the end of the shot clock on the first possession of the game and Columbia's Meiko Lyles nailed a three-pointer from the near corner to answer.
Harvard's Lauren Rivard hit a contested jumper to make it a 5-3 game and Mark Cisco answered with a tough jumper of his own to make it 5-5. It was that type of back and forth game from the outset.
The Crimson led 30-27 after being ahead by seven points at two different times during the first half. Harvard opened up an eight-point lead, 45-37, its largest of the game, at the 6:51 when Rivard scored two of his game-high 20 points.
Van Green responded by draining a three-pointer from the top of the key with a hand in his face to make it 45-40. After Keith Wright made two free throws, Alex Rosenberg canned another triple to bring the Lions within four points, 47-43 with 3:44 to go.
Harvard's Kyle Casey made one of two free throws at the other end and Rosenberg converted a tough runner along the right side and was fouled. His second straight three-point play brought the Lions to within two, 48-46 with 2:39 left.
The Crimson went back to Wright inside and the former Ivy League Player of the Year converted a tough layup in traffic to bump the Harvard lead back to four.
Columbia still trailed by four with 1:04 left on the clock and Curry drove the lane and drew a foul as the shot clock expired. He made one of two free throws to give Harvard a 53-48 lead with 35.4 seconds left and the Crimson made its next four foul shots to seal the victory.
"I thought we played well," head coach Kyle Smith said after the game. "It's frustrating we can't break through. In this league, there's very little margin for error."
Barbour had 15 points, including 7-of-7 from the foul line, to lead Columbia's scoring attack. Mark Cisco finished with eight points and five rebounds and Blaise Staab had a strong game off the bench with six points and seven boards.
"We're not content but we're proud," Smith explained. "Our effort's been very good."
Rivard's 20 led Harvard. He made 8-of-12 from the line and 5-of-11 from the field. Wright finished with 15 points and six rebounds and Curry added 12 points and four assists.
The Lions are back in action at home on Friday, February 10 against Brown. Tipoff at Levien Gymnasium is set for 7 p.m.
Columbia last defeated a ranked team on December 2, 1976 when the Lions won at #19 Rutgers, 85-75 ... the Lions' last seven games have been decided by five points or fewer ... Harvard has won 25 straight on its home court ... the Crimson made 21 of 32 free throw attempts ... Columbia made all eight of its foul shots ... the Lions had just three turnovers in the first half and nine for the game ... Columbia outrebounded Harvard 29-26 and 9-5 on the offensive glass ... Van Green finished with five points, four rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot ... Columbia's bench outscored Harvard's 16-1 ... there was a large Columbia contingent behind the visitors bench, including recent Lions Joe Case '02 and Matt Preston '05.