On Saturday afternoon, the men’s basketball team (6-16, 2-5 Ivy) hosted the Columbia Lions (12-8, 3-4 Ivy) in The Black History Month Game at the Pizzitola Sports Center, concluding the first of two rounds of Ivy League play.
Entering the contest, Brown, Columbia and Harvard found themselves in a three-way tie for fourth place, the threshold for entry into March’s Ivy Madness in New York. After handing the Bears an 83-69 loss and knocking them down to fifth place, the Lions now share the fourth spot with Harvard alone.
Starting the game for Coach Mike Martin ’04 were junior-duo Kino Lilly Jr. ’25 — who led the team with 24 points — and Nana Owusu-Anane ’25 — who racked up 14 points alongside two steals and a block. Totaling eight points and five assists was Aaron Cooley ’25, who finalized the starting five alongside Felix Kloman ’24 and Kalu Anya ’26.
The Bears started the game off hot. Forty seconds in, Kloman pivoted the ball out of the paint and into the corner, where Cooley knocked down the Bears’ first triple of the day. Following a defensive stand on the other end, Lilly Jr. doubled down from distance, hitting a three from the opposite corner. In a stellar display of complementary play, Owusu-Anane stole the ball on Columbia’s next possession. Hitting a floater, Anya was able to capitalize, and the Bears claimed an early 8-2 lead.
Speed was the name of the game during the opening stretches of the contest. Columbia’s depth from the bench provided their starters with vital rest, and whenever they took the court, they pressured Brown’s defense and swarmed the paint.
“I think they played about ten people,” Lilly Jr. said in an interview following the game. “Everybody can shoot. So we have to respect everybody’s jump shot — it’s hard to guard when everybody’s shooting and you have to guard one-on-one.”
But the Bears matched the Lions’ speed, pushing quickly in transition and employing pick-and-rolls to spread Columbia’s defense and pull them out of the paint. And whenever Columbia vacated the key, the Bears struck — at no time more potently than nine minutes in, when Landon Lewis posterized a Columbia defender off a Kimo Ferrari ’24 assist, bringing the score to 18-17 Columbia.
Though the beginning of the first half was characterized by the competitive interplay of both sides, the latter half was marked by runs. Ten minutes in, the Bears had a three-minute-long offensive drought in which Columbia was able to take a 27-17 lead.
“Columbia is playing really good basketball,” Coach Martin said in a press conference following the game. “They have guards who can attack. They have forwards who can shoot and pass. They do a great job of screening and cutting and spacing the floor. So, credit to Columbia for how they defended us. But I think some of our droughts were maybe a little bit more self-inflicted.
“We have to do a better job of (running) our offense consistently over the course of 40 minutes,” Martin said.
But when the Bears’ offense ran, it did so seamlessly. With seven minutes left in the half, Owusu-Anane put an end to Columbia’s run, rebounding the ball and driving the length of the field for a dunk. Coming out of a time-out with five minutes left, two quick Brown buckets brought the score to within three points. Owusu-Anane then found Cooley cutting through the paint, who hit a left-handed reverse layup. Ndur and Owusu-Anane combined to cement the 13-0 run, and the Bears took a 32-29 lead with two minutes left.
But Brown was unable to maintain the lead, and the team entered halftime down 40-34.
Dominant offense from the inside was pivotal to Columbia’s success. “Coming in, I thought (the key) was an advantage for us,” Coach Martin explained. But over the course of the contest, the Lions outhooped the Bears 44-36 in the key. “They beat us up in the paint … It’s just very surprising for us to get outscored like that.”
Over the first five minutes of the second half, Columbia pushed its advantage to 49-37, and the Bears were never able to recover. With eight minutes left, the Lions claimed their biggest lead of the day at 63-45.
“We just weren’t good enough,” Coach Martin declared. “Offensively, we turned the ball over too much. We gave them too many offensive rebounds … Our defense wasn’t consistently good enough, and our offense had too many lapses. They played a really good complete game, so credit to Columbia.”
The upside in an otherwise disappointing quarter was the stellar performance of Lilly Jr. After scoring only five points in the first half, he dropped 19 in the second, finishing the game with 24 points on 18 attempts.
My “coaches told me to stay aggressive,” Lilly Jr. said after the game. “I wasn’t making shots in the first half. They told me to keep shooting; they liked the shots that I was taking. They just went in in the second.”
“We rely on (Lilly Jr.) an awful lot,” Martin said. “He’s someone who can make difficult shots, he can make plays. He draws so much attention from the other team. We have to continue to be better as coaches to find the balance of going to him and putting him in positions where he can attack and be a playmaker, but then also being able to play off others. The more we can get other guys to make plays for Kino, the better this team will be.”
The Bears will begin the second round of Ivy League play on Friday, on the road against Princeton. The game will begin at 7 p.m. and is available for streaming on ESPN+.
“Some great challenges await,” Coach Martin concluded. “I’m excited for the opportunities to go on the road (and) to practice and prepare for what’s coming up. I’m confident that we will be ready to have a great second half of the Ivy League season.”
Lydell Dyer is a Senior Staff Writer for the sports section. A sophomore hailing from Bonn, Germany, Lydell is studying nonfiction English and political science, and if he's not off "making words sound pretty," you can find him lifting heavy circles at the Nelson.