Columbia 69, Eastern Michigan 56 CIT

The postseason came to Levien Gymnasium for the first time ever and it turned out to be a ton of fun.

CollegeInsider.com Tournament logoBehind a crowd of more than 2,000 fans Columbia defeated Eastern Michigan 69-56 in the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament on Saturday night. With the victory the Lions advanced to take on Yale in the quarterfinals of the tournament at Levien on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Playing a league rival with four days notice in the quarterfinals should make for an even better crowd, especially considering what the Lions managed to stir up on a few days notice even though the students were on spring break.

“To be able to put that crowd out in two days and not everyone know and I don’t think the New York Post even put it in that there was a game being played,” Columbia (21-12, 8-6 Ivy League) head coach Kyle Smith said. “It felt from just the emails and the buzz that it was going to be better and it was even better than expected.”

Postseason isn’t something that the Lions have experienced much in their history, especially considering the Ivy League is the only Division I conference without a tournament to decide its automatic bid.

“Our guys were just so excited going into it anyways,” Smith said. “I think it was really a reward for our guys. That’s why the league in my opinion would benefit from a postseason tournament.”

Anytime in the season home court is a big advantage. Midway through the second half it looked like playing in front of a rowdy crowd at Levien might not be enough to help the Lions advance. Karrington Ward’s dunk with 9:10 remaining gave EMU (22-15, 10-8 MAC) a six-point lead, 51-45. The Eagles then went more than 8:30 without a field goal as Columbia grabbed control of the game.

The Lions went on a 14-0 run spurred by Alex Rosenberg and Corey Osetkowski. Rosenberg finished with 15 points and seven assists. During the game he scored the 1,000th point of his career at Columbia. Osetkowski seemed to get more comfortable against EMU’s 2-3 zone as the game went on. He finished with 10 points on 4-8 shooting from the field.

“We hadn’t really faced a zone all year long so it was something I was trying to get used to,” Osetkowski said. “Coach [Carlin Hartman] was yelling at me all game long, ‘Don’t be tentative,’ so I felt like I just needed to play more assertive and demand the ball.”

Even though EMU has one of the best defenses in the country, the Lions managed to get enough open looks against the zone to finish with 69 points in 58 possessions. The Lions went 10-21 (48%) from three and had 18 assists on 22 baskets during the game.

“[Osetkowski] was doing a great job in the high post and finding us and I think overall we were moving the ball a lot,” Rosenberg said. “Against the zone you have to move the ball, keep them on their toes.”

Smith kept his starting five on the court as much as possible with some extended playing time for three-point specialist Steve Frankoski. Smith said afterwards that the limited rotation was more about allowing the players to get into a rhythm against EMU’s defense than anything else.

The crowd should be even better when the Lions take on Yale in the quarterfinals on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs won 71-66 at Holy Cross to set up the Ivy League rubber match.

“It’s just going to be two teams that know each other pretty well and a slugfest,” Smith said. “It should be exciting and a good atmosphere. I expect it’ll be packed to the rafters.”

It should be. Postseason play has come to Columbia.

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