Cornell hands Columbia a 78-64 defeat on Senior Night.

Columbia (4-22) entered the game against rival Cornell (15-10) in desperate need of a win. The Lions squad stumbled into yesterday’s Senior Night matchup on an 11 game losing streak, not having won a single game since their upset victory against Penn on January 8. Taking down the Big Red was always going to be a tall order, as Cornell cruised to a double-digit victory the last time these two teams faced off, defeating Columbia 88-75 on February 9. In yesterday’s matchup, rather than ending the regular season on a positive note and avenging their previous loss, the Lions took a wire-to-wire defeat, finishing their season with a 1-13 record in the conference.

Before tip-off, the Columbia team hosted its Senior Night festivities. Seniors Ben Milstein, Maka Ellis, Luke Bolster, and Ike Nweke were sent off with gratitude for their years of dedication to the Lions program. Milstein, Ellis, and Bolster all got the start in yesterday’s game, but Nweke was sidelined from action due to injury.

Both teams struggled out of the gates offensively. The Lions’ first basket didn’t come until nearly four minutes into the game on a two-pointer by freshman standout guard and this season’s leading scorer Geronimo Rubio De La Rosa, whose bucket notched the score at a measly 4-2. After seven minutes of action, the Big Red jumped out to a 14-5 lead. Though the Lions stayed within striking distance for most of the first half, Cornell started to pull away on the back of their impressive three-point shooting. Two free throws from Columbia’s Patrick Harding with 6:29 left in the half brought the Lions to within five points of Cornell, but after that point, it was all Big Red. Over the next three minutes, Cornell rattled off a 13-0 run and leapt convincingly in front of Columbia with a 34-16 lead. Knocking down 7 of 14 attempts from behind the arc in the first half and holding Columbia to a meager 21.9% shooting from the field, Cornell entered the halftime break with a commanding 18-point lead. 

Halftime Score: 39-21 Cornell

The second half saw the Lions pick up the pace offensively, but it was never enough to make this a contest. Cornell’s lead bloomed to a game-high 22 points with seven minutes left to play, and though the Lions were able to cut into the lead in the last few minutes, there was never any doubt as to who would walk away with the win. Columbia shot 56.3% from the field in the second half, but it was not enough to overcome Cornell’s display of prowess from three-point range. The Big Red knocked down another seven three-pointers in the second half, finishing the game 14 of 29 from behind the arc, easily outpacing the Lions who made just 8 of 35 attempts from distance. Cornell also controlled the boards in this matchup, out-rebounding Columbia 42-34. A bright spot for the Lions in yesterday’s loss was the effort from junior forward Patrick Harding, who finished with a double-double, scoring 12 points and collecting 17 rebounds. Two other Lions put up double-digit performances, Rubio De La Rosa adding 14 points and sophomore Zavian McLean scoring 12 from the bench.

Final Score: 78-64 Cornell

Columbia, after yesterday’s loss, ends its Ivy League campaign definitively in last place. This was the second consecutive season in which the Lions took home just one victory in Ivy League play. The Lions won just four contests this year, the fewest in Jim Engel’s five seasons as head coach, marking the program’s worst campaign since the 2002-2003 season, in which the Lions went 2-25. Cornell, finishing its season in fourth place, will go on to play in the men’s Ivy League tournament next weekend against first seed Princeton.

Photo by Sydney Wells.