THE GOOD: Null.
By any objective standards, this was a horrific basketball game. Columbia averaged a whopping 0.76 points per possession and Cornell kept pace at 0.71. Despite never leading in the game, Cornell had a great shot to win given a flurry of Columbia miscues down the stretch (see below). Columbia turned the ball over 23 times, Cornell shot 25.9 percent from the field as a team, and everyone on both sides likely wants to focus all of their attention towards Saturday’s rematch in Morningside Heights rather than the game tape of yesterday’s “masterpiece.”
THE BAD: The leaders.
Maodo Lo’s statline: Zero points, 0-for-2 shooting, four rebounds, two assists, five turnovers, four fouls. Shonn Miller’s statline: eight points on 3-for-13 shooting, also kicking in three turnovers and 4 fouls of his own. The two players who these teams rely on the most to pace them offensively let them down and set the tone for this wretched game. One would expect, or perhaps just hope, that this changes in a drastic manner on Saturday. Lo’s lackluster performances will be devastating for Columbia once they start facing teams more formidable than the Big Red. For a team that strives to play at a glacieresque pace, each offensive possession is critical. Alex Rosenberg’s absence has left Lo as Columbia’s alpha dog this season. For Lo to be completely out of the gameplan due to defensive attention or foul trouble means that lesser or unheralded players need to step up. Luckily for Columbia, Jeff Coby, Kyle Castlin and Kendall Jackson were able to weather the storm. Despite Robert Hatter’s 17 points, the Big Red were not able to overcome Shonn Miller’s stinker.
THE UGLY: Columbia’s closeout, or lack thereof.
Columbia’s end-of-game machinations under Kyle Smith can best be described as abusive to the Lions’ fanbase. Despite consistently being towards the top of the Ivy League in team free throw percentage under Smith, Columbia has had a knack for missing the freebies that could ice games or otherwise finding ways to give away sure victories. Yesterday in Ithaca, Columbia snatched victory from the claws of a handed-over defeat to the Cornell Big Red despite a stretch run of miscues. In no particular order, Columbia inbounded to Isaac Cohen, who shoots under 50 percent from the line, in a situation where they needed to make free throws, turned the ball over twice, fouled a three-point shooter and did not foul up three with six seconds remaining. Had the second half been 21 minutes instead of the standard 20, this surely would have been a Cornell victory. One would have hoped that last year’s stretch of close victories had turned the tide in the “Columbia Can’t Close” narrative but poor performances late against Stony Brook, Loyola, and now Cornell seem to indicate their late-game inconsistency is still alive and kicking.