Is there anything worse than false hope? Anything?
When I was young, my father used to take me to the New England Aquarium. I loved it there – the penguins were my favorite. But I had one memory that stuck out, sore and unlike the others. After watching the penguins, the otters, and the algae-laced sea turtles, I went to the gift shop, and headed straight to the rocks and minerals section. I saw this shiny rock, and I needed to have it. The rock I needed – it was solid gold. I asked my dad if I could have it. He chuckled at my childish ignorance and explained, “Wolfgang, that’s fool”s gold.” Though it shined like gold, it was just like any other rock.
Needless to say, I had an episode of déjà vu this weekend.
The Lions entered Payne Whitney Gymnasium on Friday night with their noses in the sky. They had taken care of their two must-wins, though neither was a picnic – bending, but never breaking.
“It was just a case of opening-game jitters,” we all thought after Game 1. “It was their first game on the road, and c”mon, they broke away at the end,” we rationalized after Round 2 with the Big Red in Ithaca.
Failing to score 60 points in either contest, Columbia dropped both last weekend, and now sits at 2-2 in conference with a disappearing chance to recover or contend for an Ivy League Title.
Remarkably, since entering conference play, the Lions are 2nd to last in the conference in three point shooting percentage (10-39 for 25.6% over the last two games), and are figuratively – though it feels like literally – shooting themselves in the foot.
The offense is too reliant on smart defenders making dumb mistakes. Expecting Ivy defenders to go under ball-screens and leave shooters open, or anticipating defenders to overplay and allow the back door works only so many times, especially in a league where scouting reports are more thorough than a head lice test. Through four games, the Columbia offense is as predictable as any in the Ivy League. They’ve taken no one by surprise.
In Friday’s matchup at Yale, Columbia had more turnovers (16) than they had field goals (14). That storyline speaks for itself. The Lions were outrebounded 32-23, and seemingly lost every 50/50 ball to the hungrier Bulldogs. Justin Sears bullied the Lions inside, scoring 22 points on just eight shots from the field. The “Dogs won comfortably, 69-59.
The very next day was more of the same. Brown dominated Columbia on the glass, grabbing 11 offensive rebounds. Columbia shot just 6-22 from beyond the arc — Mullins, Rosenberg and Lo were a combined 3-13. The lone bright spots were freshman Luke Petrasek, who had 12 points and 9 rebounds, and big man Cory Osetkowski who posted 10 points and 6 rebounds. Ultimately, the anemic 56-point output didn’t cut it for the Lions, as they fell 64-56 to the 2nd place Brown Bears.
Remembering that Columbia beat a tournament-bound Stony Brook team that is 9-1 in the America East, or that the Lions dismantled a talented St. Francis (NY) team by 20 – a team that won on the road in Miami – is nearly unfathomable after this weekend.
They aren’t heading into Jadwin on Friday night at 4-0 like we thought they might. Instead, they”re facing what might as well be considered an elimination game against the 0-3 Tigers.
Maybe they were just the same old Columbia team that we see year after year– the December All-Stars.
Fool”s gold once again.