NEW YORK — “Roar, Lion, Roar,” Columbia fans commanded.
Their beloveds got the message, loudly and clearly, and responded accordingly.
In the biggest upset three weeks into the Ivy League season, the last-place Lions stunned league-leading Harvard, 78-63, before 1,853 fans Sunday at Levien Gymnasium.
Harvard (13-7, 5-1) was outshot, outrebounded, outhustled, out-everythinged by Columbia (10-10, 2-4).
“We haven’t been a good first-half team all year,” said Harvard coach Tommy Amaker.
“This time, we weren’t a very good team the whole game.
“But can we do better? Absolutely.
“They outshot us and outdefended us. We didn’t have the answers.”
Harvard had beaten Columbia seven straight times over the past four years — but this one was destined to be different.
Originally scheduled for a 7 p.m. Saturday tipoff, the game was pushed back 19 hours by the snowstorm that blanketed the Northeast.
Columbia rode a 20-point first half by sophomore guard Steve Frankoski to a 38-34 lead at the break, and maintained a relentless pace in the second half, as the fans heaped down “over-rated, over-rated” commentary on the Crimson.
As the outcome became clear, they reminded everyone on the premises, “This is our house.”
The gap went as wide as 73-53 and then 75-55 with just under three minutes left before Harvard made any dent in the margin.
Frankoski — standing a slender 6 feet 2 inches and the only player on the court wearing long black socks — totaled 27 points and seemed an unlikely leading Lion.
Sophomore guard Wesley Saunders netted 27 for Harvard, but just one other teammate, backcourt partner Siyani Chambers (12), got into double figures. Thirteen turnovers, along with 4-for-13 3-point shooting, sped the Harvard demise, too.
Frankoski, a former New Jersey schoolboy star, had reached 20 points just once this season — against Elon — but he’s showed immense potential all season and sizzled in this one from 3-point land.
Frankoski was 4 for 4 from beyond the arc in the first half and 1 for 3 in the second.
“I hit my first few and was definitely in a nice rhythm. I just seemed in the zone,” Frankoski said.
Amaker called the Frankoski performance “Amazing. He couldn’t miss.”
With Harvard pressing Frankoski more in the second half, his teammates stepped up.
Cory Osetkowski, a 6-11 sophomore from California, was a major presence under the boards with nine rebounds.
Sophomore Alex Rosenberg (13 points), Maodo Lo, a freshman guard from Germany (12 points), and senior guard Brian Barbour (8 points, 8 assists) were other key Lions.
Columbia outshot Harvard, 50.9 percent to 42.9, and outrebounded the Crimson, 33-22.
With Princeton, the only other previously unbeaten Ivy team, bowing to Yale Saturday night, the Crimson and the Tigers now shared the Ancient Eight lead.
“Like a lot of other leagues around the country, it looks like ours is going down to the wire, too,” said Amaker.
Princeton comes to Cambridge Friday night with a chance at regaining the Ivy lead, and Penn, showing signs of Ivy life after a brutal 2-12 start, comes in Saturday.
“Top to bottom, the Ivy League is a very tough league,” said Columbia coach Kyle Smith.
His team had shocked Villanova, 75-57, back on Nov. 20, but games such as that had been strictly intermittent ever since.
“Everybody in the league is getting better,” he said. “If we had a [postseason] tournament, you’d see how tough these teams are.
“But, of course, we don’t.”