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 why pass the buck when you can pass to the Buck?
We have back-to-back Buck Jenkins moments on the countdown! The most prolific point scorer in Columbia history has not just the all-time scoring record as we mentioned last week but set the Lions’ single game scoring record with 47 points as a sophomore on Feb. 15, 1991, a record which stands to this day. As the Lions defeated Harvard, 92-77, Jenkins accounted for more than half the team’s points and just barely broke Chet Forte’s record of 45 points in a game in the process. On the evening Jenkins went 15-for-23 from inside the arc, 17-for-21 at the line, and incredibly did not attempt a three-point shot, despite the line being a foot closer than it is today at the college level. Jenkins was one of two players to score more than 40 points in 1991 without attempting a three-pointer. The other? LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal.
The game got off to an inauspicious start for the Lions, as they trailed Harvard by 11 points early on and were forced to burn two early timeouts. After that, Jenkins took over. Harvard’s wings could not stay in front of him as Jenkins got to the rim at will. Jenkins picked apart the Crimson with an array of layups, runners, and short catch and shoot jumpers. When he wasn’t draining midrange jumpers, Jenkins was getting to the foul line. Had he made the four free throws he missed, his 51 points would have tied Bill Bradley for the single-game Ivy League scoring record.
Alas, Jenkins had to settle for a measly 47, but with the game out of reach, Jenkins’ ability to reach the record was nearly out of his hands. The team was apparently unaware that Jenkins was at 44 points, one behind Chet Forte’s record until an assistant coach was told and relayed the information to coach Jack Rohan. Since Harvard was inexplicably continuing to foul for the final few minutes of the game despite being down double digits, Rohan instructed his players to get the ball to Jenkins at all costs so he could rack up free throws and get to the record.
While this perhaps diminishes the moment, as the record was not broken on a dramatic jumper or took place in a more competitive game, the game as a whole was Jenkins at his finest and emblematic of his Columbia career. Jenkins went on to lead the league in scoring with just over 18 points per game in 1991 and earn first-team All-Ivy honors, aided by his dominating effort at Harvard. For the man who would go on to lead Columbia basketball in scoring, this night was especially sweet. Not only was it a Columbia victory, it was also Buck’s 20th birthday. Friendly rims and porous defenses are better presents than cake and gift cards.
(Thanks to the wonderful Columbia Spectator Archive.)