One injury too many for Columbia

In the Ivy game I’m sure you all were watching on Friday night, Columbia put out a horribly uninspired performance in the Palestra, falling to Penn 54-46. The Lions scored just nine points in a nightmarish first half, knocking down just three of the 20 shots they put in the air.

Sitting on the bench, watching three after three clang off the rim (or, in Cory Osetkowski’s case, miss everything entirely), Steve Frankoski sat, unusually quiet, with a large brace on his right ankle.

Frankoski’s playing time on this team has fluctuated over the course of the season, but he started to come on down the stretch. The senior picked up his first start in Columbia’s rout of Brown, and scored six points in the first three minutes the next night at Yale.

Read moreOne injury too many for Columbia

Saturday Ivy Roundup

It was a ‘meh’ Valentine’s Day for Ivy basketball, with all four games being decided by eight points or more and no massive upsets:

Harvard 61, Cornell 40

The Crimson, previously on the wrong end of a 26-2 run against Dartmouth earlier this season, reeled off a 22-2 run of their own to shake off the Big Red. Senior guard Wesley Saunders somehow compiled eight rebounds but zero points in the first half, but steady efforts from senior forward Steve Moundou-Missi and sophomore guard Corbin Miller allowed Harvard to win with comfort. Cornell’s got an amply stout defense, but no offense when Shonn Miller isn’t clicking (and he didn’t at Lavietes, going 1-for-10 from the field).

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Lions must be able to win without Maodo

“We had a saying: everybody has to guard Lo.”

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.

Read moreLions must be able to win without Maodo

Columbia is playing Uglyball – and it’s working

Kyle Smith's Uglyball approach is paying dividends for the Light Blue. (Columbia Athletics)
Kyle Smith’s Uglyball approach is paying dividends for the Light Blue. (Columbia Athletics)

What is the most memorable basketball offense of all time? Chances are your mind just jumped to memories of the Showtime Lakers, the Seven Seconds or Less Suns, the Stockton and Malone pick and roll, or the present-day Spurs. Visions of great ball movement, transition dunks and helpless defenders are probably dancing through your head like sugarplums at this very second.

The offense Kyle Smith and the 2014-15 Columbia Lions are running more resembles the Four Corners offense which, while ultimately leading to many victories, sucked the life out of the game and ultimately led to the implementation of the shot clock. Despite playing at this snail’s pace, only four teams in the NCAA have attempted a higher percentage of three-pointers than the Lions. This combination of a slow tempo and an absurdly high percentage of threes taken has created a painful-to-watch offense that is the key to Columbia’s season.

Read moreColumbia is playing Uglyball – and it’s working

Columbia’s “Chairman Maodo” lays down the law in win over Bucknell

Maodo Lo posted 20 points in a win over Bucknell Saturday. (gocolumbialions.com)
Maodo Lo posted 20 points in a win over Bucknell Saturday. (gocolumbialions.com)

NEW YORK – “Maodo Lo” is a combination of syllables that practically begs for a nickname. After a brief flirtation with “Lo Library” — a clever reference to the central building on Columbia’s campus, but not the most intimidating name for a slashing shooting guard — the Levien denizens (led by the raucous Columbia University Marching Band) seem to have settled on “Chairman Maodo.” The reference to the founder of the People’s Republic of China seems appropriate for the politically engaged student body in Morningside Heights.

On Saturday night, “the Chairman” gaveled the meeting between Columbia (4-2) and Bucknell (3-6) to order with a trio of three-pointers in the first six minutes, pacing the Lions to a 62-39 rout of the visiting Bison.

Read moreColumbia’s “Chairman Maodo” lays down the law in win over Bucknell

Meiko Lyles and Zach En’Wezoh depart Columbia basketball program

After missing the 2012-13 season due to personal reasons, Meiko Lyles posted 5.7 points per game last year. (GoColumbiaLions.com)
After missing the 2012-13 season due to personal reasons, Meiko Lyles posted 5.7 points per game last year. (GoColumbiaLions.com)

Columbia issued a statement from head coach Kyle Smith announcing the departure of senior guard Meiko Lyles and sophomore forward Zach En’Wezoh from the Columbia basketball program.

Smith’s statement reads as follows:

Meiko Lyles and Zach En’Wezoh have decided to leave the program. They both will remain enrolled at Columbia. Meiko decided to take his last year and focus on his academics and securing a job after graduation. Zach’s situation is more medical. He has battled through a series of injuries since he’s been here and, despite his best efforts, does not believe his body can make it through the rigors of another season. Meiko and Zach have been great representatives of our program. We respect and support both of their decisions and wish them nothing but the best.”

While the sting of En’Wezoh’s departure will be mitigated by Columbia’s deep frontcourt, the loss of Lyles is a big one for a program universally thought to be on the rise following last season’s 21-13 finish. Lyles came on strong down the stretch in the regular season last year, hitting a game-winning three to give the Lions a win at Princeton, posting 21 points on 80 percent shooting from the field in a 70-68 win against Brown and providing solid perimeter defense on a consistent basis.

Lyles’s absence will put pressure on freshman guards Kyle Castlin and Nate Hickman to contribute in perhaps greater roles than previously expected, but Lyles’s tight defense will be missed regardless. His D was a factor in Miles Jackson-Cartwright and Tony Hicks’s combined 3-for-15 performance from the field for Penn at Levien Gym late in the season and he helped contain Armani Cotton in Columbia’s 16-point win over Yale.

But that win over Yale may also provide an answer for how replace Lyles going forward.

Steve Frankoski notched 17 points off the bench against the Bulldogs, and the senior guard will have to help fill Lyles’s shoes in 2014-15.

Yale Tops Columbia in Thriller, Moves on to CIT Semis

Yale 72, Columbia 69, Final. Javier Duren was the best player on the court on Wednesday night, putting forth a breathtaking second half performance to lead the Bulldogs into the CIT Final Four.
Yale 72, Columbia 69, Final. Javier Duren was the best player on the court on Wednesday night, putting forth a breathtaking second half performance to lead the Bulldogs into the CIT Final Four.

There was a great game played on the campus of Columbia on Wednesday night. Two great teams playing their best basketball in late March faced off in front of a raucous crowd of passionate fans. It was a banner night for the League and it meant little to anyone in Levien Gymnasium that the tournament was one of little prestige.

Columbia and Yale played their hearts out with the Bulldogs ultimately emerging victorious thanks to one of the Ivy’s most impressive individual performances of the season. Javier Duren, after halftime, took his game to a new level, setting new career highs (vs. D-I opponents) in points (33) and rebounds (9). Duren was everywhere, slashing through the lane and getting to the rim against Columbia’s staunch defense, nabbing rebounds, and controlling the game for the Elis. This kind of transcendental performance was the only way Yale was going to pull this game out as the Lions, spurred on by an incredible showing from the Columbia faithful, would not go quietly into the Morningside night as they attempted to extend this historic season.

Read moreYale Tops Columbia in Thriller, Moves on to CIT Semis

Yale, Columbia Advance in CIT, Meet Wednesday at Levien

After Saturday night victories, Yale and Columbia will meet in New York on Wednesday for the right to advance to the 2014 CIT Final Four.
After Saturday night victories, Yale and Columbia will meet in New York on Wednesday for the right to advance to the 2014 CIT Final Four.

Columbia: The Lions” historic season continues after a 14-0 second half run turned a 51-45 deficit into a 59-51 lead. Yielding only five points to Eastern Michigan in the game”s final nine minutes, Columbia finally figured out how to stop the Eagles” main weapon, Raven Lee (26 pts). Lee went 1-8 down the stretch as the Lions took the lead for good.

Alex Rosenberg finished with 15 points and 7 assists, while Cory Osetkowski went for 10 timely points and 7 rebounds. In the backcourt, Maodo Lo scored 15 points, while Steve Frankoski added 11 off the bench, nailing three treys.

The Lions move on to face a familiar foe, the Yale Bulldogs, in the CIT Quarterfinals on Wednesday night at Levien.

Read moreYale, Columbia Advance in CIT, Meet Wednesday at Levien

Can the Lions become Kings of the Ivy League Jungle?

Below, Wolfgang breaks down the Ivy
Below, Wolfgang breaks down the Ivy”s hottest team. But will it translate to conference success?

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.

Read moreCan the Lions become Kings of the Ivy League Jungle?

Season Preview: Columbia Lions

Can Columbia learn how to win close games this season with a young roster of sharpshooters and unproven big men?
Can the Lions learn how to win close games this season with a young roster of sharpshooters and unproven big men?

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.

Read moreSeason Preview: Columbia Lions