Columbia/Harvard Friday night matchups: Crimson men and Lions women prevail

On the first night of the Ivy League’s opening back-to-back weekend, the Columbia women hosted Harvard, while the Crimson men welcomed the Lions.

When the dust cleared on Friday evening, both home teams held serve in competitive contests.

With the wins, the Lions women (14-5, 5-1 Ivy) claimed sole possession of second place and the Crimson men (11-7. 2-3) sat in a fourth-place tie with Brown.

The Harvard (11-8, 4-2) women dropped to a third-place tie with Brown, while the Lions (10-8, 1-4) men fell into a sixth-place tie with Dartmouth and Penn.

Harvard men 62-59 over Columbia

The Columbia and Harvard men’s game looked to be a battle of strength-versus-strength, with the Lions nationally strong three-point shooting going up against a Crimson team that was one of the country’s best at defending the perimeter.

While Columbia also possessed one of the top free-throw shooting teams in the land, Harvard was one of the best teams in defensive free-throw percentage.

The Lions had the hot hands early, going 4-for-7 from downtown over the first seven minutes, to open up a 21-7 lead.

Columbia would make two more triples during a 12-3 run to stretch its advantage to twenty, 33-13, with just over nine minutes left in the opening half.

Harvard finally woke up, using a 5-for-7 effort to spur a 11-0 run over the next four minutes to make it 33-24.

The Lions recovered and stretched the lead to 15 before the Crimson finished the half with a 7-0 run, sending the visitors to the locker room up 41-33.

The Crimson came out of the gate quickly in the second half, using a Louis Lesmond three-pointer and a slam dunk from Justice Ajogbor to make it 41-38.

Columbia maintained an eight-point lead halfway through the final frame, but Harvard’s 8-0 run knotted the game at 54 with 5:30 remaining in regulation.

The Lions were holding onto a slim two-point advantage, when the Crimson’s Malik Mack nailed a three-pointer from the left elbow to give Harvard a 57-56 lead, its first since the second minute of the game.

On the next possession, Lesmond poked the ball away from Geronimo Rubio De La Rosa and into the hands of Chisom Okpara. The sophomore speedster went coast-to-coast for the slam, giving the Crimson a three-point lead and forcing Columbia’s Jim Engles to stop the home team’s momentum with a timeout.

With Harvard still up three, 61-58, entering the final twenty-five seconds, Columbia’s Zine Eddine Bedri went in for an easy layup to make it a one-point game. However, Ajogbor got a fingertip on the ball and redirected it enough for the miss.

Mack was then sent to the line to make it a two-possession contest, but he missed the front end of the one-and-one and Ajogbor was called for a foul.

Avery Brown took the ball from the Columbia baseline, rushed up the right side of the court and threw up a wild three-ball just after crossing the midcourt line. Fortunately for the Lions, Malik, who was closely defending Brown the whole way, was called for the fall.

Heading to the line with a chance to tie the contest, Brown missed the first two free throws before making the third.

A Thomas Batties III inbound pass was deflected by Columbia’s Kenny Noland and the loose ball ended up going out of bounds off Lesmond.

With 11 seconds left, the Lions had one last chance for the tie or win.

The ball quickly ended up in De La Rosa’s hands, but the team’s leading scorer missed a three-pointer from the left elbow and the rebound fell to Chandler Pigge.

After Pigge was fouled, he made the first free throw but missed the second.

Noland came down with the board and sent it to De La Rosa on the right side for a long-three, but the ball fell short of the net and the Crimson came away with its 10th consecutive victory in the long-running series.

Tommy Amaker’s squad won this contest on the strength of its defense, allowing Columbia to shoot only 27% from the field in the second half and 39% for the evening. While Harvard allowed the Lions to start 6-for-12 from downtown in the first eleven minutes, the hosts locked things down and limited its opponent to a 2-for-14 three-point effort the rest of the way.

Harvard also held De La Rosa to a mere three points and tired Columbia out enough so the Lions could only manage to shoot 50% (5-for-10) from the free throw line.

As usual, Mack led the way for the Crimson with 18 points and six assists, while Okpara finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.

Both teams return to action at 6 p.m. on Saturday for the second night of the opening back-to-back. Harvard will host Cornell (16-3, 5-0), which is tied with Yale at the top of the standings, and Columbia heads north to try and break its tie with Dartmouth (5-13, 1-4).

Columbia women 82-70 over Harvard

The Lions and Crimson are quite familiar with each other, having faced each other four times last season.

While Columbia won three of those matches, the one Harvard victory in the Ivy League Tournament semifinal cost the Lions its first-ever NCAA Tournament bid. That game continues to serve as motivation for a Lions program that continues on its quest for an invitation to the Big Dance.

In front of another boisterous and packed house at Levien Gymnasium, Columbia jumped out to a 28-17 lead after the opening quarter.

Harvard battled back in the second frame and used a 9-2 run over the last 3:40 to tie things up at 42 at the game’s midway point.

The battle remained close through the opening part of the second half, with the Lions gaining a small 53-50 advantage halfway through the third quarter, but Columbia used its own 9-2 run over a three-minute period to stretch its lead to 10 and finished the frame up 65-55.

Harvard came out hot in the fourth quarter, twice cutting the deficit in half over the first two and a half minutes, but the Lions would not allow its rivals to get any closer.

A fastbreak layup and two free throw shots from junior guard Kitty Henderson in the next minute of action stretched the Columbia lead to nine, 72-63, and neutralized Harvard’s momentum.

On the evening, the Lions outshot the Crimson 55% to 45% and dominated the inside.

Columbia had a balanced offensive attack with four players reaching double figures. Cecelia Collins led the way with 20 points, Abbey Hsu added 19, Henderson totaled 18 points and Fliss Henderson (Kitty’s sister) posted a career-high 13 points.

Collins also six assists, three rebounds and a block, while Fliss Henderson’s night included a game-high eight rebounds and an assist.

For the defeated Crimson, Katie Krupa tied a career-high with 23 points. Harmoni Turner, the league’s second leading scorer behind Hsu, finished with only 15 points on 5-for-17 shooting, and Lola Mullaney added 14.

Megan Griffith’s Lions welcome last-place Dartmouth (6-12, 0-6) to Morningside Heights for a Saturday 5 p.m. contest, while Carrie Moore’s Crimson head to upstate New York to face sixth-place Cornell (7-11, 1-5) at the same time.