The cracks were starting to show in Columbia’s season. The Lions were down seven points to Ball State with six minutes to play and Isaac Cohen was on the bench with four fouls.
Cohen is the glue of this Columbia team. His foul trouble against Princeton was an unheralded, but large part of the Lions’ Ivy hopes sinking loss at home earlier this season (and Devin Cannady of course).
Without their glue the Lions found another way to seal the cracks and pull out the victory, coming from behind to pull out a 69-67 victory over Ball State and advance to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament semifinals on Sunday night.
Alex Rosenberg and Maodo Lo powered Columbia (23-10) down the stretch. Lo hit three huge three-pointers, including two that tied the game (one on a tip-out from Cohen when he was on the court).
“I think I was open for some of them,” Lo said about the shots down the stretch. “One I just felt like I could shoot, so I shot it. That’s basically it.”
Rosenberg absorbed possessions, got to the free throw line, and was trouble for the Cardinals all night, eventually landing BSU’s best player, the awesomely named Franko House, on the bench after a disqualification.
“With two or three minutes left we were down six and the pressure you start to feel it a little bit,” Rosenberg said. “Knowing this could be your last game. That’s not a feeling you’re used to having.”
Lo finished with 16 points on 6-13 shooting, including 4-9 from three in 30 minutes. Rosenberg scored a game-high 18 points even though he was just 3-10 from the floor, because shot 11-13 from the free throw line. Rosenberg also grabbed seven rebounds.
“I felt like this was a good game to try to put pressure on them,” Rosenberg said. “I felt if we were relaxed and just shot threes all game it probably wouldn’t end up the way it ended up. We got their best player in foul trouble and he fouled out. My goal was just to try to get the basket and draw some contact and see if I can make a play for someone else.”
The victory set a Columbia record for the most home wins in a season with 17. The Lions will have a chance to add to that total when they host a yet-to-be-determined opponent on Sunday night at Levien Gymansium. That game will also offer a chance to set the Columbia record for the most wins a season, as they’re currently tied with the 1967-68 Lions team that went 23-5.
“We’re giving ourselves a chance to do something that hasn’t been done in school history and win 24 games,” Rosenberg said. “If we can do that and hopefully come away with a championship that would mean a lot to us seniors. … I feel like it would leave a great mark in Columbia history if we could win this CIT.”
When the Lions take the floor at Levien again on Sunday they’ll also be one of just a few teams still playing college basketball across the country. It’s a long way from being eliminated by the first weekend in March.
“It’s pretty cool,” Lo said. “To be able to still compete this late in the season is fun.”
Columbia has just found a way to keep on playing.