We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Columbia is next because CIT stands for Columbia Is Theatrics.
The CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament is the newest and least prestigious of college basketball’s postseason offerings. The tournament is designed to give schools from one or two-bid leagues the opportunity to experience postseason play, and the Ivy League has been a feeder to the CIT since its 2009 inception. Columbia’s first postseason appearance since 1968’s great run began with a bang in Valparaiso, Indiana. While Valpo basketball is best known for Bryce Drew’s buzzer beater in March, the Chairman was about to deliver one of his own.
A strong 11-6 nonconference mark meant Columbia could struggle in Ivy play and still likely make the postseason. After a brutal, referee-aided double overtime loss to Harvard on Feb. 14, the Lions stood at 14-10 overall but just 3-4 against the Ancient Eight. The Lions went on to sweep the next two weekends, including a nationally televised beatdown of the Yale Bulldogs at Levien. Columbia went on to win eight Ivy games in a season which caught many off guard due to the losses of Brian Barbour and Marc Cisco. Filling their spots were Alex Rosenberg, who averaged 16 points per game in 2013-14, and sophomore guard Maodo Lo. Lo was mostly known for his defensive abilities after a freshman season where he played sparingly and barely cracked six points per game. Lo made the leap instead of suffering a sophomore slump, averaging over 14 points per game and carrying Columbia to a school record 21 wins and tying for third in the Ivy League. Taking on the 18-15 Valparaiso Crusaders, Lo and Rosenberg would both struggle as neither team was able to find a foothold for most of the game.
Valpo led by one at halftime but the game was back and forth. Despite Lo and Rosenberg being unable to find the bottom of the net, Columbia was buoyed by Cory Osetkowski’s 21 points, including making all three shots from beyond the arc that he took. Neither team led by more than four points for the final 15:59 of gametime, so Columbia’s 52-48 lead with just over four minutes left seemed huge given the context. Of course, Vanderbilt went on a 7-0 run to reclaim a three point lead before back-to-back Osetkowski jumpers gave Columbia a one-point lead with a minute to play. Valparaiso split two free throws and with 28 seconds remaining, Columbia held for the last shot with the game tied at 56.
Despite Lo being 4-for-11 from the field and turning the ball over five times, Kyle Smith entrusted him to run a 1-4 isolation set, only telling him to not shoot too early. Lo dribbled the clock down to about six seconds, where he was closer to midcourt than the three-point arc and had his back to the basket. Suddenly, Lo faced up and drove hard at his defender, crossing over to the top of the arc, before stepping back from about 17 feet. The ball left his hand with less than a second left, and by the time it hit the floor Lo was already being swarmed by his teammates and coaching staff. Columbia would go on to win its second-round CIT game at home before falling to Yale in the quarterfinals, yet Lo’s fantastic season had an exclamation point and while the legend of the Chairman had already begun, on this night it truly took off.
Check out video of the buzzer-beater here.