When you’re an Ivy League team and you play the No. 1-ranked team in the country, your goal is respectability. To show your fans that you can hang tough with blue-chip NBA prospects, to make your alumni proud on the biggest possible stage, and to demonstrate to basketball observers anywhere that the Ivy League is not to be taken lightly.
The Columbia Lions checked all three of those boxes on Wednesday — and many more. They scored eleven points before Kentucky — a team with NINE All-Americans coming out of high school, playing at home in one of the toughest gyms in the country — scored even one. They led at halftime, 25-23, ensuring an ESPN2 halftime show that focused on how good Columbia was playing.* It was 27 minutes into the game before Kentucky seized the lead, as the Lions forced the Wildcats to activate their considerable potential in a game they would have expected to be a walk in the cake. It was a game that will linger long in the memory of the long-suffering Light Blue boosters.