Fairfield 82, Columbia 81 (OT)
Two threes from senior guard Grant Mullins in the final 2:19 allowed the Lions to force overtime, but to no avail. Threes ruled all night for the Lions, with 41 of their 69 field goal attempts coming from beyond the arc against Fairfield’s zone. They can shoot 1,000 threes and it won’t matter if their defense doesn’t improve. Columbia fouls resulted in 8-for-8 free throw shooting from the Stags in the second half, and former Princeton coach Sydney Johnson’s crew shot 46.7 percent for the game, 9.6 percent greater than the Lions. Now let’s just skip to the real defensive meltdown:
Longwood 70, Columbia 69
Senior forward Alex Rosenberg, who has looked like a sieve on defense for much of his Columbia career, allowed a game-winning layup to freshman forward Chris Shields with six seconds remaining, and the Lancers, a No. 294 KenPom team, completed the upset with a shocking clip of 1.21 points per possession. The Lions are an unusually small squad full of one-way personnel, whether it’s Rosenberg, Mullins or senior forward Petrasek. On defense, the size isn’t there, the defense isn’t there, and the rebounding comes from Mullins and fellow senior guard Isaac Cohen, who combined for nearly 38 percent of Columbia’s entire rebounding production tonight by themselves. The problem is there’s very little defensive upside here. The culprits are mostly seniors who give too much offensive value to be shelved. Junior center Conor Voss isn’t likely to become a menacing defensive presence, even at 7-1 and 260 pounds, and he’s never going to be a lasting option at the other end of the floor either. Perhaps Columbia would be best served by leaning more on the 1-3-1 zone it has flashed at times this season, accentuating the strong defense the Lions have gotten from Cohen and senior guard Maodo Lo. Columbia ranks 345th in the nation in adjusted tempo, and it might be well served by picking up the pace a little more to take pressure off its defense and give its playmakers more opportunities, especially since the Lions rank 305th in the country in defensive effective field goal percentage, 317th in three-point percentage and 314th in block percentage.
For more on Columbia’s defensive struggles, check out Ian Wenik’s story coming up tomorrow.