That’s how Carson Puriefoy described Stony Brook’s game plan against Columbia Tuesday night, when the two sides met in a Morningside Heights rematch.
It is fair to say the Seawolves executed that plan to near perfection, holding Lo to a season-low seven points on just 2-for-9 shooting; his first bucket didn’t fall until less than four minutes remained in the game. Puriefoy shouldered most of the load in stopping the Lions’ star guard, though he was consistently helped with double-teams and other defensive tactics which prohibited Lo from driving or getting clean looks from three.
The Lions fell, 70-61, and dropped to 7-6 on the season, with just a matchup against D-II Central Pennsylvania before Ivy play kicks off with a home-and-home against travel partner Cornell.
The game offered a blueprint to anyone trying to shut down Columbia this year.
The saying is that your home gym is a fortress; for Columbia, Levien Gymnasium — literally and figuratively — is better called a bunker. The Lions lost just four games there last year: a defeat at the death to Manhattan in the home opener, a double-overtime loss to Harvard assisted by the officials, a 10-point loss to Princeton and the CIT quarterfinal against Yale. Total margin of defeat: 18 points.
It comes as a shock now when the Lions lose in their bunker, as they did last night. It was another close game, as Loyola (Md.) scored a buzzer-beater to finish off the Light Blue after the home side’s furious fightback. Final two minutes aside, the result exposed some fairly major issues with a still congealing squad.
The roster upheaval is starting to get disturbing for Columbia fans. First, senior guard Meiko Lyles and sophomore forward Zach En’Wezoh left the program earlier this month. Now, per the Columbia Spectator, Alex Rosenberg is out indefinitely after sustaining a Jones fracture in his right foot during practice Friday. As the Spectator notes, the usual recovery time for the injury is six to eight weeks, which would wipe out most of his nonconference season.
Is there anything worse than false hope? Anything?
When I was young, my father used to take me to the New England Aquarium. I loved it there – the penguins were my favorite. But I had one memory that stuck out, sore and unlike the others. After watching the penguins, the otters, and the algae-laced sea turtles, I went to the gift shop, and headed straight to the rocks and minerals section. I saw this shiny rock, and I needed to have it. The rock I needed – it was solid gold. I asked my dad if I could have it. He chuckled at my childish ignorance and explained, “Wolfgang, that’s fool”s gold.” Though it shined like gold, it was just like any other rock.
Needless to say, I had an episode of déjà vu this weekend.
Rarely does a 10-point win leave the Lion Loyalists as unsatisfied as it did on Saturday night in Upper Manhattan – the aura around the post-game press conference was indicative of that.
Despite Cornell’s late-game run sparked by a full-court press and a small lineup, Coach Smith was proud of the way his team fought through the adversity saying, “We went through some tough ones like that last year and didn’t get it done, so hopefully [this win gives us] a little confidence moving forward.”
The Lions began the night hitting 3-4 from three, taking advantage of a Cornell defense that was overplaying the backdoor cuts and providing open looks off of handoffs and down-screens. But after a David Onuorah (6 pts, 4 rbs) rim-rattling dunk, another Onuorah put-back layup, and a Devin Cherry (16 pts) old fashioned three-point play, the game was tied at 21 with 2:59 left in the first half. A pair of “and-1s” from Alex Rosenberg, followed by a Maodo Lo layup got us to halftime, just 29-26 Columbia.
Entering their final non-conference game against Stony Brook (KenPom #113) tonight, Kyle Smith’s Columbia Lions are generating some serious buzz. After a heartbreaking defeat against Manhattan and a hard fought loss to then-#2 Michigan State, the Lions are 8-4 over their last 12 games. Coach Smith is settling on his eight-man rotation, and these young Lions are looking like a team that can contend at the top of the league. The unanswered question remains; is this the same Columbia team from last season that looked strong entering conference play, but then limped to a 4-10 conference finish, or is this a different pride of lions?
The biggest question entering this season was how the Columbia guards would fill the void left by Brian Barbour and limit turnovers. Although the Lions turn the ball over on 19.4% of their possessions (226th in the country), the turnovers aren’t killing Columbia, and are simply a product of Smith’s unconventional, high-risk, high-reward offense.
In tonight’s battle for Manhattan’s basketball throne, one team’s misfortune became the other’s gain, as the Jaspers pulled out the stunning 71-70 victory at Levien Gymnasium.
The play that gave Manhattan a second life was a controversial foul call on Mike Alvarado’s desperation three-point attempt with 4 seconds to go, down 70-67. During the play, Alvarado leaned into Columbia defender Maodo Lo (8 points, 6 rebounds) and was granted the shooting foul despite Lo’s proper defense. Alvarado then went to the line for three shots, and the chance to tie the game at 70.
After missing the first and making the second to get Manhattan within 2 points, Alvarado appeared to intentionally miss the third. The rebound fell to a fortunate Jasper player whose errant putback fell just within the reach and leap of George Beamon. As he crashed to the floor, he laid it perfectly off the backboard and in, getting fouled in the process. Confidently, the 5th year senior stepped to the line and swished the free throw to take the one point lead, 71-70. But it wasn’t quite over yet.
In 2012-13: 12-16, 4-10, 8th place, No Postseason.
A Look Back
Before the start of last season, some considered Columbia a dark horse contender for the Ivy title. After a promising 8-6 non-conference record that included a dominant road victory over Villanova, that preseason prediction didn”t appear too farfetched. However, Columbia limped through a frustrating 4-10 Ivy League campaign. Senior Brian Barbour was banged up all year, while Mark Cisco averaged a career low 45.6% from the field and 8.1 points per game – 2 points below his junior season”s average. Alex Rosenberg shot an abysmal 26.7% from three, and Kyle Smith didn’t call for enough screens to free up Steve Frankoski. It seemed that many of Columbia”s losses were either the result of bad timing or bad luck.
On the brighter side, last season we saw the emergence of two future all-Ivy League shooters, Grant Mullins and Steve Frankoski. The twine-tickling tandem combined for a 100-239 (42%) mark from behind the arc in the 2012-13 season, and could see those offensive numbers improve with the return of junior guard, Meiko Lyles. Lyles should get his fair share of defensive attention on the perimeter himself, and take some of it off of Frankoski and Mullins.
A player who showcased maturity and development during the tail end of the season was sophomore guard, Maodo Lo. He came onto the scene in the middle of the season, and showed a dynamic offensive game and gritty on-the-ball defense. As a likely candidate for Ivy breakout player, how can you not be high on Lo?
It”s always tough to lose seniors – especially Barbour, Cisco and Daniels. Barbour is an obvious loss, and given his previous All-Ivy seasons, Columbia will need some of the younger players to step in and provide some much needed leadership at the point. Cisco – disregarding my personal frustrations with his finishing inside – had his moments, and will need to be replaced as a big body inside. John Daniels will be missed for his defense, energy off the bench, rebounding efficiency, and his legendary flush over IHO Defensive POY and Cornell rim-protector, best online casino Shonn Miller.
Saturday”s league contests had Ivy fans expecting two very close games between traveling partners. Instead, we got
two pretty decisive victories from Columbia and Brown. The Lions” victory provided more evidence that Columbia is a real contender this year. If they want to compete for the title, this was a road game they needed to have. Meanwhile the day”s biggest statement came from Brown. The Bears” victory wasn”t necessarily unexpected, but the way they routed Yale was certainly a surprise. For such a balanced team with many different ways to put the ball in the bucket, it”s worth noting that the Bears now boast the third-best defense in the league, yielding fewer than 1 point per possession. With Albrecht back now, perhaps we have to raise the ceiling for the quickly-improving Bears: reaching the top half seems to be within the realm of possibilities.
Cornell and Yale will have to go back to the drawing board to figure out a way to salvage a split with their traveling partners after disappointing opening weekends–Cornell with an eye on fixing the defense, and for Yale, the offense.
In some of the season”s final non-conference action, Harvard had a stirring comeback that fell short in Memphis and Penn was dismantled by St. Joe”s in a Big 5 matchup. Let”s take a look at this weekend”s top performers:
Some quick hitters around the league as the week between conference openers drags along:
Top 5 Wins for the Ivy League this Year
The Ivy non-conference slate ended up producing some memorable moments. Though there are still a couple big non-conference games remaining (Harvard at Memphis, Penn vs St. Joe”s and Temple, etc.), here is a list of the league”s best wins by Pomeroy rating:
Princeton 79, (42) Bucknell 67- A turning point for the Tigers as Hummer”s supporting cast showed up to take down Muscala and the Bison.
Brown 69, (67) Providence 68- Style points for the thrilling finish, the national TV audience, and the local rivalry.
Harvard 67, (70) California 62- Statement game on the road for the Crimson. Saunders, Rivard, Chambers.
Columbia 75, (87) Villanova 57- Shocking scoreline on the road. Lions showed depth as Rosenberg, Frankoski, and Mullins led the way.
Princeton 62, (119) Kent State 50- Big road win as Bray started to shake off his slump and the Tigers held the Golden Flashes to 0.78 points per possession.