For the first time this season, the men’s basketball team does not sit atop the conference standings.
On Saturday night, the Bulldogs dropped their second matchup of the season against Columbia, marking three years in a row that the Elis have fallen to the Lions in their second meeting of the season.
Yale (19–8, 8–2 Ivy) struggled against the Lions (13–11, 5–5), who were picked to finish third in the league in the preseason media poll, falling 56–50. Columbia limited the Elis’ leading scorer, forward Justin Sears ’16, to just seven points on 3–8 shooting and kept him off the offensive glass, limiting him to just one offensive rebound.
“The main focus was just being physical with him, trying to limit his catches, just knowing his tendencies, and just playing as hard as we could defensively,” Columbia center Cory Osetkowski said.
The Bulldogs scored the first basket of the game, but after Columbia tied the game just over two minutes into the game, the Elis never regained the lead. The Lions found their rhythm early, leading by 10 points less than five minutes into the game. And while the Bulldogs knotted the score halfway through the first 20 minutes, Columbia then went on a 12–0 run to take control of the game.
At the intermission, the Bulldogs trailed by eight, thanks in part to six turnovers in the half. The Elis also failed to assert themselves in the paint, getting outrebounded 20–15 by the Lions in the first half.
“Columbia did an excellent job protecting the paint and making it difficult for us to [get] offensive rebound[s],” head coach James Jones said.
Coming out of the locker room, Yale continued to struggle from the field. With 15:41 remaining in the game, Columbia had grown its lead to 16. Over the next 10 minutes, however, the Elis held the Lions to just one basket and cut the deficit to three.
But it was not enough. The team’s failure to convert from the free throw line hampered the Bulldogs’ comeback efforts down the stretch. Yale shot just 7–16 from the charity stripe, including a couple that were the front end of one-and-ones during the team’s 13–2 run. The Elis were unable to get closer than three points the rest of the way, as Columbia hit its free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
“Our biggest problem shooting the ball tonight was from the free throw line,” Jones said. “If you make free throws, the game is tied and that puts more pressure on them, and you’re right there. But you can’t miss free throws. And we did tonight.”
On defense, the Bulldogs forced 12 Lions turnovers, but guard Maodo Lo continued to perform well during Ivy League play. Lo led all scorers with 18 points for Columbia, while Osetkowski added 10 points, going 6–6 from the free throw line.
For the Elis, guard Javier Duren ’15 had 13 points, and forward Matt Townsend ’15 contributed 11 more. The Bulldogs, typically a strong rebounding team, were outrebounded by the Lions for the second time this season, losing the battle of the boards 39–30. Sears led the team with six boards, and Duren and guard Makai Mason ’18 each grabbed five.
The Bulldogs now have the week to regroup before next weekend’s slate of games featuring Princeton and Penn.