PHILADELPHIA—With 1.5 seconds left in overtime, the game tied at 59, Penn’s sophomore guard Miles Cartwright was getting ready to inbound the ball over Columbia junior center Mark Cisco. The Quakers’ star senior guard Zack Rosen set a screen that left sophomore forward Fran Dougherty open under the basket. Cartwright lobbed the ball over Cisco and into the hands of Dougherty, who made the easy layup.
“The second the thing was in the air, I was like, ‘Oh crap,’” Columbia head coach Kyle Smith said.
Once again, the Lions (14-12, 3-7 Ivy) found themselves on the losing end of a close game, as the Quakers (15-11, 7-2 Ivy) squeezed by them with a 61-59 victory.
“Give Cartwright credit—he threw it over Mark and made a good pass, and we got caught on a bad switch,” junior point guard Brian Barbour said. “Even if we would have switched right, we still would have had a little guy on him.”
Like many of Columbia’s Ivy matchups, the game was close throughout. Penn opened the game with a 10-0 run, but the Light Blue locked down on defense and held the Quakers scoreless for over seven minutes. At halftime, the Lions found themselves up 24-21.
There were six ties in the second half, as neither team could pull away. Immediately after the break, the Lions turned the ball over, and Rosen hit a three-pointer to tie the score at 24, setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Rosen, who is second in the league in scoring with 18.1 points per game, struggled a bit from the field. While the guard finished with 14 points, he made just five of his 16 shots. Sophomore guard Meiko Lyles was tasked with guarding Rosen for most of the game.
“I think we have one of the best, unheralded defenders in the league,” Smith said of Lyles.
“All I could do is just really play him tough, try to take away as much as I can from him,” Lyles said. “But he’s a really nice player, he gave us a good effort, he was clutch for them down the stretch.”
Rosen did make shots when they mattered. After Cisco made two free throws to put the Lions up 54-53 with 31 seconds remaining in regulation, Rosen made it to the line after getting fouled by senior forward Blaise Staab. Though Rosen missed the first, he made the second to tie it with two seconds remaining in regulation.
The Light Blue turned over the ball on its first two possessions in overtime—the first on a five-second violation and the second on a travel. The Lions still had their chances, getting several defensive stops against Penn, but the Quakers had four offensive rebounds in the five-minute overtime period.
“I think it was probably a big key for Penn to keep us off the glass,” Smith said. “That was the difference in overtime.”
Lyles led all scorers with 17 points. “He’s a stud,” Smith said. “I’ll take him any day of the week. He’s guarding the best guard in the league and then we asked him to get 17 points and play 43 minutes ... I just wish we got the win for him.”
Barbour, who had 25 points against Penn at home, was the focus of the Quaker defense and therefore assumed a distributing role. He finished the game with six points and eight assists.
The loss is Columbia’s seventh in conference play and the sixth by five points or fewer.
“Each one hurts more and more,” Barbour said. “I can’t explain the feeling, but it’s really tough. You know, we’re a young group of guys and we just got to, like Meiko said, learn how to win and how to get over that hump that we’ve had in Ivy League play.”