Columbia took care of business on Wednesday night against Colgate, but the Lions still have a few kinks to work out before Ivy League play starts in 17 days at Cornell.
The Lions defeated Colgate 66-59 behind the play of Brian Barbour and Grant Mullins. The senior guard and his protege each scored 15 points. Barbour also had six assists and three steals.
It was the freshman Mullins who knocked down the final four free throws of the game to seal the victory.
“I felt confident,” Mullins said about the shots. “We do a lot of situational stuff like that so I’ve been in that situation before so I felt pretty comfortable.”
Mullins has been starting for most of the season, but he’s recently been joined by fellow freshman Maodo Lo. The Lions are playing a smaller lineup since a three-week stretch that saw them play just one game. Alex Rosenberg plays power forward in the small and mighty lineup. It’s something he still seems to be adapting to. Rosenberg got into foul trouble trying to guard Colgate’s Murphy Burnatowski on Wednesday and it really impacted Columbia (7-5) on both sides of the court.
Rosenberg still managed to score nine points and grab three rebounds in 27 minutes. The smaller lineup does seem to be helping the Lions offensively. They’ve scored more than a point per possession in each of the three contests since the break, all at Levien Gymnasium.
The smaller lineup relies a lot on man-to-man defense, which is a good thing, because the 2-3 zone struggled against Colgate. The Lions gave up a 5-0 run to close the first half.
The momentum continued after halftime as Colgate (5-10) scored the first six points after the break to take its largest lead of the game, but Barbour had the answer. His drives into the paint opened up space for a number of Lions to get good looks from three. Columbia shot 9-21 from three in the game.
Still, the Lions didn’t take their final lead of the game until 4:36 remained on a three by Steve Frankoski.
Even though Columbia stuck with the small lineup in this game, Kyle Smith said that he might still use the bigger one in certain situations, such as when the Lions play Princeton.
“It’s always easier to downsize and I think that’s kind of how we’ve gone,” Smith said. “We still want to have our zone package when we play against certain teams.”
For Mullins there have been a few bumps in the road this season. He’s scored in double-figures in seven of 11 games, but two of his single-digit outings came in the past two games. Overall though, he said that the transition on the court has been smooth, but he’s had to adjust to Ivy life.
“It took a while to get used to the academic part and everything,” Mullins said. “But I feel like we’re coming together as a team more and all the guys are so unselfish that it wasn’t that hard to make the transition.”
For now Columbia has two more games on the road against Patriot League teams to figure things out. The Lions are traveling to Army and Holy Cross during the next week. Those games should be tough battles. One of the keys to winning them will be getting Mark Cisco back on track. He struggled with a 3-14 shooting night and scored only six points in 30 minutes.
“Mark usually picks it up the second half of the year,” Smith said. “I’ll take those shots he was getting. It’s funny, when he makes those jumpers he’ll go on a roll.”
If Columbia can get Cisco going, then the offense should click and Smith can start worrying about the tough road ahead in league play.