Non-stop effort propels Columbia past Howard

MANHATTAN — The week between Christmas and New Year”s is often a sleepy week, even in the bustling metropolis on the Hudson. But it was anything but quiet uptown on the Monday evening after Christmas, as a robust crowd saw the Columbia Lions win their fifth consecutive game, defeating the Howard Bison, 72-59.

Facing off against the nation”s leading scorer, Howard”s James Daniel, the Light Blue”s much-maligned defense put on one of their best performances of the season in controlling the Bison.

While Daniel finished with 36 points, the slick guard did so on an inefficient 9-29 shooting, and 2-10 from beyond the arc. The quick feet of Maodo Lo, along with alert help defense, prevented Daniel from getting any clean looks at the basket.

“I thought I emphasized it enough in practice: he”s the leading scorer in the country, he”s the leading scorer in the country,” coach Kyle Smith (Hamilton “92) said with a laugh after the game. “We wanted to be better defensively, and I think we were.”

Read moreNon-stop effort propels Columbia past Howard

St. Joe’s knows Lo: How the Lions can start winning at the wire

Following last night’s devastating 80-78 loss to Saint Joseph’s, Columbia (4-5) has now lost three out of its last four games by a combined four points.

Each time, the Lions have had the ball in their hands with a chance for the tie or victory on the last possession. Each time, they’ve come up short.

Last night, it was the Lions’ defense that surprisingly gave them a chance to win late in the second half after largely going missing for much of the second frame. Saint Joseph’s shot 59.4 percent in the second half after missing 22 of its first 33 shots, but Columbia’s press defense came up huge in the final two minutes, forcing a five-second call and a turnover on the sideline that set up the final play.

With 5.3 seconds to go, the Lions had a golden opportunity, inbounding in the Hawks’ half of the floor. Everyone knew where the ball was going — especially Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli.

Read moreSt. Joe’s knows Lo: How the Lions can start winning at the wire

How to fix Columbia’s defense

Entering the season, the general consensus was that Columbia’s biggest flaw was its potential inability to keep its opponents’ scoring totals down.

A handful of performances aside, the Lions have done little so far to shake that criticism. They suffered what was easily their worst loss of the season on Saturday night, allowing Longwood to shoot 65.2 percent in the second half of a 70-69 gut-punch. Part of Columbia’s struggles can be chalked up to sheer fatigue (Saturday was its fourth game in one week), but it’s also obvious that there are serious structural flaws that coach Kyle Smith will need to compensate for going forward.

So, what are some realistic solutions?

Read moreHow to fix Columbia’s defense

Ivy post-Thanksgiving (just Columbia, unfortunately) roundup

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:

Read moreIvy post-Thanksgiving (just Columbia, unfortunately) roundup

Kyle Smith gives thanks for Isaac Cohen after Columbia beats Wofford

NEW YORK – Two minutes into Columbia’s final game before a brief Thanksgiving break, coach Kyle Smith’s face was redder than cranberry sauce. His team had turned it over on four straight possessions to start the game, the Lions couldn’t stop Wofford from stuffing the ball through the net and were generally playing like turkeys.

So Smith went to his bench and called upon junior forward Jeff Coby and sophomore guard Nate Hickman, the duo that helped turn the game from an 11-3 deficit into a 70-59 win for the Lions at Levien. Hickman hit a three-pointer on his first touch to get the crowd back into the game, and then it was time for the Isaac Cohen/Jeff Coby show. On three straight possessions, the Cohen to Coby combination resulted in layups for the big man and the Lions were back in it. Cohen said he just wanted to be aggressive early in the game, and noticed that Wofford was playing off him which presumably helped open up passing lanes for the senior swingman.

Read moreKyle Smith gives thanks for Isaac Cohen after Columbia beats Wofford

Three takeaways from Columbia’s 88-61 win over Lehigh

Facing a Lehigh team that was the preseason Patriot League favorite, Columbia (2-2) turned in what was by far its best performance of the season in an 88-61 win. The Lions imposed their will at their own end of the floor, so much so that C.J. Davis’ three-pointer just to the right of the key felt like a dagger, even though it only gave them a 22-12 lead.

Here’s what we learned from Columbia’s win:

Read moreThree takeaways from Columbia’s 88-61 win over Lehigh

How Northwestern squeaked by Columbia, 83-80, in OT

Columbia raced out to a 17-5 lead at Northwestern and led 74-68 as late as the 2:18 mark. So how did the Lions lose?

Maodo Lo’s foul trouble

Lo picked up his second foul with 8:10 left in the first half and his fourth foul with 11:31 left in the game. He never fouled out, he spent much of the second half limited defensively by his inability to stay aggressive, a huge loss since he had three steals in the game’s first 12:36 and the Wildcats had trouble with his on-the-ball pressure. Lo playing just 26 minutes – four fewer than any other starter and at least 12 fewer than starters besides Isaac Cohen – meant Columbia’s defense was that much more exposed for longer stretches than usual.

Read moreHow Northwestern squeaked by Columbia, 83-80, in OT

Instant analysis: Kansas State outlasts Columbia, 81-71

Playing in its first game against a Division I opponent, Columbia (1-1) hung around for a while against Kansas State (2-0), but faded down the stretch and fell, 81-71.

On one hand, the Lions did a good job handling the environment inherent to playing a Power Five conference team on the road. Their half-court offense generated a solid number of in-close looks. On the other end of the floor, Kyle Smith switched things up a bit midway through the game, installing a 1-3-1 zone that the Wildcats really struggled to overcome.

Read moreInstant analysis: Kansas State outlasts Columbia, 81-71

A Far Too Comprehensive and Ridiculous Columbia Season Preview, Part 3

Best Case Scenario

By Miles Johnson

In November in the year of our Lord 2016, students, alums and fresh-faced future Lions will pack into Levien Gymnasium. As fans of all ages watch Kendall Jackson rack up triple-doubles, or Jeff Coby slam home put-back dunks, or even a transformed Chris McComber knock down 30-foot threes—as a wistful Cory Osetkowski watches from afar—one can notice Kyle Smith pace nervously on the sidelines. Then, a strange calm takes hold, and he tilts his head up toward the rafters and smiles.

“2015-16 NCAA National Champions – Columbia Lions.”

Read moreA Far Too Comprehensive and Ridiculous Columbia Season Preview, Part 3