The UMaine men's basketball team plays in January 2021. Credit: UMaine Athletics

Freshman Geronimo Rubio De La Rosa tied his career high with 24 points and Patrick Harding added 15 points and 17 rebounds as Columbia University defeated the University of Maine men’s basketball team 77-66 on Saturday afternoon at Schiller Court in New York City.

The Lions (3-6) never trailed in the contest and built a 20-point lead early in the second half before holding on for the victory after the 2-5 Black Bears narrowed the deficit to three points three different times later in the non-conference matchup.

Columbia established a 39-25 halftime advantage, then outscored UMaine 8-2 at the outset of the second half to establish its largest lead at 47-27.

But the Black Bears, seeking their first Division I victory of the season, went on a 19-2 run to pull  to 49-46 on a three-point play by Sam Ihekwoaba with 11:08 remaining.

The 6-foot-5 freshman guard from Orlando, Florida, countered a Columbia basket with a dunk to keep the Black Bears within three points, at 51-48, with 10:35 to play, then answered a basket by Rubio De La Rosa with two free throws as UMaine hung kept the score to 53-50 with 9:49 remaining.

Columbia then extended its lead back to 11 points before UMaine mounted one last rally that brought the score to 70-64 on two free throws by sophomore guard Vikasin Masic with 2:24 remaining.

But Columbia’s Josh Odunowo countered with a three-point play after grabbing an offensive rebound to help put the Black Bears away.

Masic paced UMaine with a team-high 15 points to go with six rebounds and three assists, while junior guard Maks Klanjscek scored 11 points and junior guard LeChaun DuHart added 10 points and six rebounds.

Ihekwoaba finished with nine points on 3-of-3 shooting from both the field and the free-throw line during 10 minutes of duty.

UMaine returns to action at 2 p.m. Saturday against Quinnipiac in Hamden, Connecticut.