Stefanini leads pride as Lions hang on for first Ivy win

Gabe Stefanini finished with 24 points as the Columbia Lions held on for their first conference win of the season in their Ivy League home opener.

Here are eight thoughts for eight Patrick Tape offensive rebounds in the 73-70 win over Cornell:

  1. A sweet night for Stefanini, who missed a game-tying free throw one week ago in Ithaca to drop Columbia’s first Ivy League game of the year. The sophomore shot 10-for-17 and dished out a team-high five assists. With star guard Mike Smith out for the season, Stefanini has become the team’s offensive engine and best player. He created offense when sets stagnated and plays fared poorly. Stefanini outperformed Matt Morgan with decisive action that kept Columbia afloat when Cornell seemed poised to draw level. Most sweet? Two perfect free throws with five seconds left to put Columbia up three and wipe away some bad memories.
  2. Morgan had an average day, scoring 21 points on just 6-for-14 shooting. Columbia limited Cornell’s star senior to just six first-half shots, taking a 28-23 lead into halftime, and kept the ball out of his hands in the final seconds. Quinton Adlesh in particular did a good job on Morgan. He swiped four steals in the first half and scored several points in transition. Stefanini got in on the action too, cleanly stripping Morgan late in the second half and helping Columbia chew clock with a four-point lead.
  3. “That number 10, Quinton Adlesh, he can shoot like crazy,” said the student sitting behind me. Put that guy in the press box: Adlesh was great as usual on offense. The senior shot 7-for-12 from the field and hit two late jumpers to help secure Columbia’s lead. Most impressive was a dribble-handoff jumper with 12.1 seconds left that gave Columbia its frenetic-but-final three-point lead and got the blue-clad student section roaring. Adlesh has been Columbia’s most consistent player for so long; it’s nice to see the students recognizing him as such.
  4. Both Patrick Tape (32) and Ike Nweke (21) finished with usage rates higher than 20 percent. Tape, at 6’10” possessing a two-inch advantage on Cornell’s tallest player, helped Columbia set a slow pace early with frequent post-ups. His possessions in the second half were less effective — his post moves seemed to include an extra, unnecessary spin — but Tape did finish with eight offensive rebounds, a game-high. Nweke displayed some polished post moves and finished with six points and five boards in 15 minutes.
  5. Tape and Randy Brumant recorded in-your-face rejections in the first half as Columbia kept tight watch on the paint. The Lions allowed Cornell just 36 percent shooting in the first half and gave up 20 points on two-point field goals in the second half. The second half saw an offensive explosion. Cornell outscored Columbia 47-45 in the second half, in large part due to going 15-for-16 from the line, despite the Lions shooting a torrid 17-for-24 from the field in the second half.
  6. A clean-shaven Jake Killingsworth scored just three points in 33 minutes, but spaced the floor enough to help the offense. Killingsworth is a solid player who makes one or two nifty plays per game. This time, it was a sparkling feed to a open cutter for an easy two. Like Adlesh, Killingsworth has stabilized the Lions on both sides of the floor. While Randy Brumant is energetic and athletic, Killingsworth is savvier and more polished — now literally so, sans beard.
  7. Steven Julian threw down an absolutely vicious posterizer dunk for Cornell in a seven-point effort, quieting even a raucous student band. The win cheered them up, as did the no-doubt-comforting thought that Nate Hickman’s dunk on Albany was better (also, note really young and really clean-shaven Jake Killingsworth!).
  8. Next weekend, Columbia hosts Princeton and Penn for two tough tests early in the season. The Lions will have to play with more consistency and poise than they did in this win, sweet as it is. No more wipeout fastbreaks from Stefanini, no more over-eager closeouts from Adlesh. The two will have to carry the team offensively once again and the defense cannot allow 45 points in any of those four halves. But the ball is in their court, and out of Matt Morgan’s hands, which was enough to earn the team its first Ivy League win of the season.

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