The Columbia Lions men’s basketball team started the season with more of a whimper than a roar, dropping their opening game 82-76 to Marist Saturday night in Poughkeepsie.
To take a page out of Jason Lloyd of The Athletic’s book, here are seven thoughts for Mike Smith’s seven field goals, as well as a bonus two looking ahead to Columbia’s participation in the 2018 Johnny Bach Classic …
1. Speaking of Smith, the junior guard reminded everyone why he was named to the All-Ivy second-team last season. Smith was the best player on the floor, scoring a game-high 23 points on 50 percent shooting from the field. More importantly, he dished out another game-high eight assists, tying his career best, and committed only three turnovers in 36 minutes of action. His qualitative performance was just as impressive as his quantitative tallies; Smith finished multiple acrobatic drives and hit big shots to keep Columbia in range after an early 21-8 deficit.
2. Columbia fell behind that early for multiple reasons, but the primary cause was their comparative dearth of shot-making. Marist capitalized on some weak rotations early in the game, draining six three-pointers in the first half; Columbia, one of the Ivy’s best long-range teams last season, hit just one. The second half saw the same theme. Although Columbia hit six treys of its own in the second half and improved perimeter rotations and closeouts, it finished the game just 7-for-23 from three, while Marist shot 12-for-28.
3. Senior Quinton Adlesh was one of three Lions to hit two three-pointers, along with Mike Smith and Gabe Stefanini. The sophomore guard effectively replaced Adlesh in the starting lineup for the season opener, but the senior sharpshooter nonetheless played 29 minutes and scored 10 points off 4-for-9 shooting. Coming off the bench, Adlesh and sophomore Randy Brumant (11 points) comprised part of the team’s most used lineup, as Rodney Hunter and Tai Bibbs earned starts but spent most of the game on the bench. Adlesh was particularly effective on curls, hitting both from the midrange and from beyond the arc.
4. With the curls in mind, one noticeable offensive change from last season was a decrease in possessions run out of the high post. Lukas Meisner left school a year early to turn pro in Germany, his home country. Meisner was Columbia’s best high-post facilitator in 2017-18, and the Lions clearly were unable to replace his deft touch. Injured junior Patrick Tapé, the team’s true big man, sat and was replaced by freshman Ike Nweke; he’s no Meisner in the high post. Consequently, the offense incorporated a slightly higher rate of pick-and-roll action and more motion.
5. He may not be Meisner, especially outside the paint, but Nweke was far from miserly in the scoring department. The freshman finished with 17 points, shooting 5-for-7 from the field and a healthy 7-for-10 from the line. He also grabbed seven rebounds and played hard up and down the court. Nweke made the biggest impact of the two Columbia freshmen who debuted. Maka Ellis helped an early Columbia run by spacing the floor, but picked up three fouls in quick succession and finished scoreless in 10 minutes.
6. The absence of Tapé was painfully noticeable for the Lions. Columbia’s now-veteran big man missed the season opener after sustaining a knee injury in practice. Marist preyed on Columbia’s Patrick-less post, scoring buckets of second-chance points off numerous (13) offensive rebounds. The Lions also sorely missed Tapé’s rim protection. Nweke was frequently Columbia’s lone interior defender on the floor due to Rodney Hunter playing just 13 minutes and the Lions often opting for a guard-heavy, floor-spacing lineup.
7. Columbia’s other season-opening loss under coach Jim Engles came last year at the hands of Villanova, who did pretty well for themselves and wound up winning it all. Does this mean Marist has a shot at the championship? No. Not in the slightest. (Now watch them win it all to spite me.)
8. Columbia shot poorly from all over the court, turned the ball over 14 times, and left a few too many shooters open. But there are still plenty of positives to take into the upcoming Johnny Bach Classic —Smith is in stellar midseason form, Nweke was really impressive in his first game, Tapé should be back, and the rust should be shaken off the shooting.
9. Columbia’s slate for the Johnny Bach Classic: Youngstown State (0-2), FIU (2-0 and averaging 113.5 points per game), and hosts Fordham (1-1). Columbia was a paltry 3-10 in nonconference play last year; they have the chance to get started off on a much better foot with their slate at Fordham. Look for some more high-scoring contests, for Maka Ellis to really begin to have an impact, and for some more of those sweet, sweet Mike Smith slice-and-scores.