Columbia’s “Chairman Maodo” lays down the law in win over Bucknell

Maodo Lo posted 20 points in a win over Bucknell Saturday. (gocolumbialions.com)
Maodo Lo posted 20 points in a win over Bucknell Saturday. (gocolumbialions.com)

NEW YORK – “Maodo Lo” is a combination of syllables that practically begs for a nickname. After a brief flirtation with “Lo Library” — a clever reference to the central building on Columbia’s campus, but not the most intimidating name for a slashing shooting guard — the Levien denizens (led by the raucous Columbia University Marching Band) seem to have settled on “Chairman Maodo.” The reference to the founder of the People’s Republic of China seems appropriate for the politically engaged student body in Morningside Heights.

On Saturday night, “the Chairman” gaveled the meeting between Columbia (4-2) and Bucknell (3-6) to order with a trio of three-pointers in the first six minutes, pacing the Lions to a 62-39 rout of the visiting Bison.

Rhythmic chants of “CHAIR-MAN MAO-DO” pulsed early and often through Levien Gymnasium as Lo filled up the stat sheet. The junior guard posted 20 points — his third straight game with 20 or more — along with three blocks and two steals on the defensive end. Those 20 points included four of six from deep, where Lo had been struggling, making just eight of his last twenty-eight entering the game.

“To be honest, I didn’t shoot it differently from previous games — it just went in,” Lo said after the game.

Columbia played stifling defense against the Bison, limiting an opponent to under 40 points for the first time since a demolition of UMass-Lowell last year. Rebounding from a tough performance against Loyola, Cory Osetkowski gave the Lions a dominant performance in the post, putting up his first double-double of the year (12 points, 12 boards, six assists) while completely neutralizing Bucknell’s Dana Foulland.

“From the beginning, it felt like I had an advantage there. My teammates fed me the ball, and when they started to double I found other players,” Osetkowski explained.

Though Lo and Osetkowski led the way, most of the team got involved in the victory. Chris McComber, struggling recently, knocked down a trio of threes, while Steve Frankoski and Kyle Castlin chipped in eight points each. Even Conor Voss got in the action, with the sophomore center scoring his first bucket of the year on a nifty sky-hook in the second half.

“The Vosser — when they’ve got a big guy like that [Foulland], we need him, and he gave us a big lift there,” said coach Kyle Smith.

For the Lions, the game was a chance for redemption after a disastrous effort earlier in the week against Loyola (Md.) Smith was thrilled with the way his team responded.

“With Loyola, we didn’t play our best. I hate saying that, because I don’t want to diminish — Loyola came in and got a good win. But there’s a feeling, an emotion when you’re playing hard, and I felt we had that tonight. We were tougher, we were a little more scrappy.”

The win, of course, was nice for the Light Blue, but they now face the toughest task any Ivy will see this year. The Lions travel to Lexington, Ky. to play the No. 1-ranked Kentucky Wildcats in a nationally televised matchup on Wednesday evening. Smith joked that he was really enjoying the win until the assembled media mentioned the Kentucky game.

“We’re going to play against what’s perceived to be the best. And, I think I’ve said before, look at NJIT, Yale. We’ll find out, see where we’re at. We’re looking forward to it.”

As for the Chairman, he remains as cool as a cucumber. Asked whether he was more worried about Kentucky or his impending final exams, Lo didn’t miss a beat.

“Kentucky,” he said, deadpan. “It’s only Reading Week.”

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