Columbia may not be the best team in the Ivy League heading into conference action, but they are certainly one of the most methodical, fascinating teams out there.
They can beat you in many different ways. Against Stony Brook on Thursday, Columbia exploited the 1-3-1 Stony Brook zone early in the second half and knocked down nine 3-pointers in the latter stanza. A Cory Osetkowski layup with 3:17 remaining was the first two-point field goal of the half. The Lions pulled away in the final minutes for a 68-63 win at home to improve to 10-6.
Here are five thoughts from the game:
1. “HE’S A SHOOTER!”
Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell could be heard shouting those three words the moment Alex Rosenberg caught the ball with 17:50 remaining in the second half. He already had 19 points and had hit a long-range shot 25 seconds prior. Of course the 3 swished through the net to tie the score at 34. It marked the third straight game that Rosenberg, who wasn’t a starter at the beginning of the season, has hit the 20-point plateau. Rosenberg has developed into one of the most impressive players in the Ivy League, as Pikiell alluded to in his post game press conference. The 6’7” forward can shoot, dribble, and create his own looks. Against Elon he hit a game-tying buzzer-beater to send the Lions into overtime, and against Colgate he orchestrated a comeback that brought the Lions back from seven points down with less than two minutes to go. His stock is on the rise, and it’s coming at the right time.
Stony Brook is a great rebounding team, but you wouldn’t know it if you watched tonight. Columbia is ranked 253rd in the country in boards but outrebounded the Seawolves 35-25, holding SBU to 14 below their average. Here’s another interesting stat to throw at you. Columbia’s best rebounder isn’t Cory Osetkowski, Alex Rosenberg, or Luke Petrasek, it’s point guard Isaac Cohen, who pulls down 5.9 per game. He had a career high 14 against St. Francis Brooklyn on Saturday. Second on the team is shooting guard Maodo Lo with 4.4. The Lions have a lot of size, but their talent often serves more than one function, which is why they are fascinating and dangerous.
3. Three Point Shooting and Free Throw Shooting
The Lions are on pace to have their best three point shooting season ever, and they continued it again tonight. They have guys that if they are open, it’s not even a question. Maodo Lo, who finished with a career-high 29, was 7-11. Rosenberg is shooting 52% from downtown this season. Lo is at 49%. If you let Grant Mullins get his feet set, you may as well not even try to rebound. Free throw shooting is the same situation. Columbia is shooting 74%, good for 40th in the country. The Lions are a dangerous team because they’ll make free throws down the stretch, and they’ll make threes. It’s hard to comeback against a team like that.
4. Maodo Lo
What else is there to say about this guy? He’s a sophomore but he plays like a senior. He makes his threes. He drives to the basket. He finds open players. You couldn’t ask for a more polished player. Columbia may not have the most talent this season, but having players like him give people the idea that next year might be something special since every player is expected to return.
5. What It Means
Columbia is 8-1 at home, with the lone loss coming on a fluke and-one to a really good Manhattan team. Tonight was the Lions’ best win of the season, coming off their previous best win against St. Francis. They have 10 wins before conference play and will get to 11 after playing non-Division I Central PA on Saturday. A win like this goes a LONG way toward in playing in the postseason, whether it be the NCAA tournament, NIT, CBI, or CIT. Momentum is Columbia’s friend right now. They open up conference play against Cornell, who is 0-13, the only DI team without a win (though they should pick it up against Oberlin on Saturday). There’s no reason that Columbia doesn’t stay competitive in the Ivy League this season. I’m by no means predicting a magical run, but they definitely could keep things fun, and get enough wins to qualify for a postseason tournament.
Sam Blum is a writer for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on twitter @SamBlum3.