Flash back to 2013. A loaded Manhattan team was at the beginning of their journey to back-to-back MAAC titles (with the jury still out on more). Steve Masiello’s team took the 1 train down to Manhattan (the borough) and handed Columbia a heartbreaking one-point loss at Levien Gymnasium.
Come back to Wednesday night at Manhattan (the college) over two years removed from that loss, and it was Columbia who flipped the script and handed the Jaspers a devastating defeat in the final seconds. And as often happens in sports, the same player was at the center of both decisions.
Columbia’s junior forward Luke Petrasek nearly won the game for the Lions two years ago. After Manhattan’s George Beamon put the Jaspers on top 71-70 with half a second to play, a full-court inbound attempt found its way out of bounds, giving the Lions the ball in Manhattan’s end of the court with 0.3 seconds to play. The lob from the sideline came to a cutting Petrasek, then a freshman, who tipped the ball just off the side off the rim.
It took him two years to get redemption, but Petrasek finally delivered. The junior nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner with just 6.4 seconds left on the clock to put Columbia on top by the final margin of 72-71.
“That was definitely a tough loss for us,” Petrasek said, reflecting on the game two years ago before recounting Wednesday’s last-minute possession. “At the end, I just heard Grant [Mullins] and [Maodo] Lo saying we need a three to win, so I just trailed out to the 3-point line and [Alex] Rosenberg gave me a great pass and I just let it go.”
Manhattan had a chance to win the game at the other end, but Rich Williams’ layup attempt at the buzzer fell off the side of the rim, much like Petrasek’s tip two years prior. The game-winning 3-pointer was Petrasek’s sole basket from behind the arc, evidence of Manhattan’s game plan to take away the 3-pointer all night. The Lions finished just 4-16 from 3-point range for the game.
“We wanted to take away the 3-point line,” Masiello said. “That was a big thing for us. They’re a team that shoots 38% from three, they average almost 22 attempts, so a big thing for us tonight was the 3-point line, and I thought we did that.”
Not only did Petrasek knock down the game-winning basket, but he enjoyed a career night overall. The junior scored 26 points on 11-17 shooting, both marks setting new personal bests.
Rosenberg struggled from the field (just 3-12), but knocked down 13 of 16 free throw attempts to finish with 19 points. The senior forward added five rebounds and five assists, including the final one on Petrasek’s game-winner. Lo was held in check in the first half and carried just two points into the break, but the senior guard finished with 12 points to round out the Lions’ scoring.
“I just think he got more comfortable out there,” head coach Kyle Smith said of Lo. “Our big emphasis was to make sure we took care of the ball. They turn people over 19 times a game, and their zone pressure can bother you. I think Maodo was probably a little cautious and got a little more aggressive in the second half.”
For Columbia, the tight win serves as a welcome boost heading into a tight Ivy League race. As far as Smith is concerned, the more experience playing and succeeding in close games, the better.
“The Ivy League, as you move towards that, there’s going to be tight games,” Smith said. “The league is top to bottom really good, and it’s going to be like that every night.”
Vincent Simone covers Quinnipiac, the MAAC, and Hofstra among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.