Columbia Weekend Recap: Hosting Yale and Brown

NEW YORK – On Friday night, Maodo Lo showed his class.

Unfortunately, the rest of his teammates didn’t show up until Saturday.

The Columbia Lions fell to Yale in a heartbreaker, 63-59, on Friday night, as Lo put up 20 points on 6-for-8 shooting from long range but didn’t get much help from the rest of the squad. The full team came to play on Saturday, using a late 22-4 run to blow the Brown Bears out of the building, 86-65. It was Columbia’s largest margin of win in Ivy play in 11 years, but that’s little consolation for the disappointing loss on Friday night.

After four games, the Lions are 2-2 in Ivy play.

Let’s run through some of the major observations of the weekend…

Justin Sears is a beast. The Lions have had their struggles defending big men this year, but none quite torched them like Sears did on Friday. (Asked postgame whether the gameplan against Sears worked, Kyle Smith answered with a flat “no.”) He put up a ridiculous 28 points, accompanied by eight rebounds, three blocks and two steals. One of those blocks was enormous — getting a touch on Lo’s last three-point attempt, which would have tied the game with just four seconds remaining. Sears used his physicality down low (five offensive rebounds) and his strong midrange game (10-for-16 shooting) to utterly bully the Light Blue frontcourt. The Yale standout also got away with at least two goaltends, suggesting that referee hypnosis is yet another of his powers. Other than that, it’s hard to imagine a more complete performance than what Sears did to the Lions.

Maodo Lo: What slump? Lo struggled with foul problems and poor shooting in the pair of games against Cornell, and he had a quiet first half against Yale. In the second half, though, the Chairman went off, draining shot after shot from long range to bring the Lions back into the game. Makai Mason drew the assignment of guarding Lo, and the freshman will want to forget the experience, as Lo unleashed his ridiculous array of dribble-moves to create space. (Shattering Mason’s ankles was an afterthought, but it did bring cheers of delight to another good Levien crowd.) Lo continued with another comprehensive performance against Brown, with 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists and zero turnovers. Maodo’s return to form is an encouraging sign for Columbia moving forward.

Kyle Castlin impresses. Freshmen sometimes hit a wall when league play starts; the exact opposite seems to be true with Kyle Castlin. The freshman from Georgia put up 10 points against Yale, and then destroyed Brown on Saturday night. The line for Castlin: 21 points, nine boards, two assists, three steals and one block. Castlin was a defensive nuisance, including one impressive steal and run the length of the court. He’s a high-efficiency shooter — 8-for-13 against Brown — and is able to get to the hoop in a way that should remind Light Blue fans of Alex Rosenberg. Castlin has quickly become a fan favorite with the home faithful, and he’s given a set of performances well beyond his freshman standing. This weekend was a statement of purpose for a Rookie of the Year campaign.

Mysteries in the frontcourt. As I already mentioned, the Lions really struggled against Yale, and with Cory Osetkowski missing due to injury against Brown’s Kuakumensah/Maia combination Saturday’s game was viewed initially with some trepidation. But the Lions held their own on the defensive end, holding that pairing to just 23 points and 15 rebounds in 62 combined minutes. Meanwhile, Luke Petrasek and Chris McComber experienced a renaissance on the offensive end, with Petrasek scoring 14 and McComber notching nine. Jeff Coby added six points, all on free throws, and even Conor Voss got on the scoresheet with a bullying offensive rebound and putback over Kuakumensah. (He also added five fouls in just nine minutes, though I would say that the last two were extremely ticky-tack calls.) It will be interesting to watch how Osetkowski is reintegrated into the squad, as the Lions proved on Saturday night what they can do with more minutes for the rest of the forwards.

Here’s a table of what the frontcourt did in two games this weekend… (Friday total / Saturday total)

Player Minutes Points Rebounds Blocks + Steals Fouls Turnovers
Osetkowski 20/0 6/0 3/0 1/0 3/0 4/0
Petrasek 22/25 3/14 2/5 0/2 1/4 1/1
McComber 11/27 0/9 1/1 1/0 2/4 0/1
Coby 23/19 9/6 7/3 0/0 5/2 1/1
Voss 2/9 0/2 0/1 0/0 0/5 0/1

The week ahead: It’s another home weekend for the Light Blue, and they’re two must-win games if they’re going to keep pushing Yale and Harvard. First up is Princeton, who always put up quite a fight in Levien; it’ll be interesting to see how the Lions perform against a team that is very similar in style. The Saturday matchup is Penn, which should (should!) be an easier contest. Last year the Lions smashed the Quakers with a huge second half that also saw Tony Hicks sent off for a punch on Meiko Lyles. We’ll see if Hicks can keep his head — and score some points — this year.

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