Even before the game started it was going to be an uphill battle for Brown at Levien Gymnasium. Leading scorer and the team heartbeat Sean McGonagill was unable to play due to injury and the Bears have no way to replace him.
Overmatched Brown tried to pack it in against Mark Cisco, play slowly and hope the Lions missed their shots – and boy did that backfire. The Lions shot 11-18 from three in the first half and put on a dominating performance on the way to an 86-60 victory on Saturday night.
“We played really well,” said Columbia head coach Kyle Smith. “When that happens it’s fun for a coach.”
Columbia (14-9, 3-4) played its best offense of the season in the first half on the way to 47 points in 29 possessions (1.62 points per possession). Not until 16 minutes into the game did the Lions committed their first turnover of the half, on a travel by John Daniels after a rebound, and they’d already collected 11 of their 16 first half assists.
It was the shooting of Brian Barbour (2-3), Meiko Lyles (5-7) and Chris Crockett (3-5) from three that drove the offense forward in the first half. Barbour found ways to be a creative playmaker. Recognizing that Brown didn’t have a player who could stay in front of him Barbour drove and kicked to teammates on the perimeter and finished with eight assists in the first 20 minutes. Barbour finished with a career-high nine assists in the game and 16 points in just 25 minutes.
“He’s been really developing as a point guard,” Smith said about Barbour. “We had to add some ways to score. Sometimes it takes time. We added it six weeks, hopefully we’re seeing the result of it and gave ourselves a little more chance.”
Crockett scored a career-high 18 points on 6-10 three-point shooting for the game and Lyles added 17. Cisco played only 18 minutes, but he scored 10 points and grabbed five boards.
“Shots went in,” Crockett said. “My guys found me. We pretty much played within the offense and it was perfect. There wasn’t a lot of one-on-one. There was a lot of ball movement and we knocked shots down.”
Coming into the game Columbia had struggled shooting the three both in Ivy League play at home, the Lions bucked both of those trends in one game, tying a season-high with 16 threes.
“It was frustrating,” Crockett said. “We knew that these shots would fall eventually. Unfortunately we had to get a couple losses, but now that they are falling it does feel great and hopefully that can carry over to the next three home games.”
Brown (7-17, 1-6) head coach Jesse Agel tried to stem the tide, but with a depleted roster that includes just nine healthy players there wasn’t much he could do. Even when his team made a smart play, such as fouling late in the final Columbia possession before half, it backfired. Barbour’s acrobatic layup gave the Lions a 23-point lead at the break.
The Lions didn’t let up during the second half either. The threes kept coming and Columbia got the lead out to as many as 33 points before Brown was able to stem the tide. The Bears did shoot well from three, hitting 10-19, but they also shot 14-43 inside the arc. Matt Sullivan led Brown with 17 points on 6-11 shooting, including 4-6 from three.