After a home sweep of Princeton and Penn last weekend, Yale men’s basketball appeared poised to lock up its sixth league win in dominant fashion against Columbia.
The Bulldogs (16–4, 6–1 Ivy) traveled to the Big Apple to take on Columbia (6–15, 1–6) in front of a nearly sold-out crowd. After shaky starts from both squads, the Elis seemed to be in control of the contest, leading by as many as 18 points a little more than halfway through the second period. But after a crowd-igniting Columbia comeback, Yale strung together clutch defensive stops and tough late-game shots to escape Manhattan with a 70–64 win.
“Columbia is pretty good,” head coach James Jones said. “Their record doesn’t indicate how good a team they are. We held them down from knocking down threes for most of the game. You knew they were going to go on a run, and I talked to the team about that. It’s how you handle the run that makes the difference.”
Both teams got off to slow starts on Friday night, combining for a total of 17 turnovers in the first 20 minutes of play. Yale benefitted from a cold Columbia team that shot a measly 1–10 from downtown in the first half — the Light Blue hit their first three-pointer with just 25 seconds left in the frame.
Senior guards Trey Phills ’19 and Alex Copeland ’19 helped the Elis overcome a start that lacked energy and three-point conversions. Missing only one of his six field goal attempts in the frame, Phills led all scorers with 11, while Copeland contributed 10 points and an acrobatic finish on the fast break towards the end of the half. Yale ended the half on a 15–3 run in the final four minutes to turn a 22–20 Lion lead into a ten-point advantage at the break.
Columbia’s miserable night from downtown continued in the early second half. Senior guard Peter Barba, who finished with nine points after hitting a trio of three-point attempts from downtown, represented the Lions’ only hope from deep — until guard Quinton Adlesh came alive and hit three tough shots from downtown in just over a minute to suddenly bring the Light Blue back into the contest.
The Elis missed numerous free throws which kept the Lions within range, but the Bulldogs maintained composure after Adlesh led Columbia on a 13–1 run that began with a little over six minutes to play. A high-arching layup from Copeland, emphatic swats from Oni — who finished with five blocks — and consistent stops on defense prevented Columbia from completing the full comeback and secured Yale a six-point victory.
Scouts from the Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks were in attendance at Levien Gymnasium, presumably to watch Oni. Golden State Warriors scout and former NBA player Mike Dunleavy Jr. also sat courtside.
Following the win, Yale now heads to Ithaca to take on guard Matt Morgan and the Cornell Big Red.
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