NEW YORK, N.Y. — In a game in which neither team led by more than seven points, Columbia was able to outlast visiting Dartmouth on Saturday night in the final game for both teams this season, a 61-55 Lion victory. The win allowed Columbia to finish with a .500 record at 15-15 but 4-10 in the Ivy League. The Big Green ended their season at 1-13 in conference play for a third straight year and 5-25 overall.
Meiko Lyles was the offensive star of the game for the Lions, scoring 23 points off the bench — all of which came in the final 22 minutes — thanks in large part to five three-pointers while Mark Cisco chipped in 15 points and nine rebounds in a reserve role. For Dartmouth, freshman Jvonte Brooks tallied a team-high 17 points and seven boards, sophomore R.J. Griffin added 12 points and freshman Gabas Maldunas 10 more.
The two teams were rarely separated by more than two points in the opening half after Chris Crockett drained a trifecta in the first minute for Columbia. Offense was rather scarce as well with the teams tied at seven after 10 minutes of play. Senior Jabari Trotter answered a Steve Egee fast-break layup with a long jumper to keep the score tied, but Cisco and Egee both provided a layup to take a 13-9 lead and impel Dartmouth head coach Paul Cormier to call a timeout.
Cormier must have made an impression on his troops as they responded with eight consecutive points, the most for either side all night, to put the Big Green up four, 17-13, with 4:15 remaining until the break. Buckets from junior Matt LaBove and Brooks were bookended around two pairs of free throws by Griffin and Brooks to account for the scoring.
The Dartmouth lead was down to one with under 90 seconds left when Lyles drained a three-pointer for his first points of the night to put the Lions up by two, 20-18. Griffin fed senior David Rufful under the basket at the other end for a nifty reverse layup, tying the score for the fifth time in the stanza. After Cisco hit just 1-of-2 at the foul line, Maldunas took a Rufful pass and slammed it home with 20 seconds on the clock. But Brian Barbour made sure the Green didn’t leave the court with the lead, dropping in a jumper at the buzzer to make it a 23-22 Columbia lead at the intermission.
As it turned out, Dartmouth would never regain the lead, although after a Lyles three began the final period, sophomore Tyler Melville did knot the score at 26 with a pair of baskets in the first four minutes. Lyles — who was 8-of-12 on the night and 5-of-6 from long range — was just getting started, however, as he ripped the nets for another three, then added a couple of layups for a personal seven-point run and Columbia’s largest lead of the night at 33-26.
The Big Green came right back with an 8-2 spurt, capped by a conventional three-point play by Brooks. Lyles went back to work, knocking down a 16-footer before raining in his fourth triple of the game. When Cisco laid one in for two more points, the Lions were suddenly back up seven points at 42-35 and less than nine minutes to go.
Griffin immediately buried a three-pointer — the only long ball for Dartmouth all night in 11 attempts — to cut the deficit to four. Three minutes later it was still a four-point game at 50-46, when Crockett sank 1-of-2 at the charity stripe for a five-point Columbia lead. Dartmouth went to Brooks in the post where he was fouled on back-to-back possessions, leading to four free throws to bring the Big Green within one, 51-50.
Barbour popped a trey, only to have Brooks get all three points back with a hoop and a harm. Again Columbia drilled one from deep, this time by Lyles for his fifth three-pointer and a 57-53 lead with 1:34 left. Following a Dartmouth three-pointer that was off the mark, Cisco scored his final points with a hook in the lane, and the Big Green could only muster two free throws in the final 40 seconds.
Dartmouth hit 17-of-42 (.405) from the floor on the night compared to Columbia’s 21-of-46 (.457). But the pronounced difference came behind the arc as the Lions lined up 7-of-15 (.467) three-pointers to just the solitary trifecta for the Green. At the line, Dartmouth did have the advantage, converting 20-of-25 (.800) to just 12-of-18 (.667) for the Lions, while the latter had the edge in rebounds, 32-27.
Brooks missed just two shots all night, going 4-of-5 from the floor and 9-of-10 at the free throw line.
Dartmouth played 30 games in a season for the first time in 60 years, and nearly half of those contests (14) were decided by seven points or less. Yet the Green time and again kept ending up on the wrong side of those close encounters, winning just twice.