Columbia dropped its second game two local competition with a 70-61 defeat to Stony Brook at Levien Gymnasium Tuesday.
The Lions will wrap up non-conference play on Saturday against Division II Central Pennsylvania. Kyle Smith’s team has lots to work on before the Lions open Ivy League play in Ithica, NY at Cornell.
If you want to read about things from the Stony Brook side check out Sam Blum’s three thoughts.
Here are three thoughts going forward.
1) When Maodo Lo can’t carry the offense who steps up?: Everything Stony Brook did defensively on Tuesday was concentrated on taking Lo out of the game. It worked too. The Lions’ leading scorer was held to just seven points in 36 minutes. In fact, he didn’t score from the field until he hit a three-pointer with 3:47 remaining in the game. Every Stony Brook player was watching Lo around the perimeter and Carson Puriefoy worked hard to force Lo to kick it back out when he caught it deep in the post. The hyper focus on Lo had its disadvantages, but Columbia couldn’t consistently take advantage. Corey Osetkowski scored 11 points on 4-4 shooting in the first half, for instance, but the Lions’ senior center couldn’t sustain that scoring output and guard Jameel Warney all game.
Steve Frankoski played well in the second half, and scored 16 points, including 4-6 three-point shooting, but without another option, the offense stalled enough that Stony Brook was able to build a nine-point lead midway through the second half. Part of the problem was that Osetkowski cooled off. He shot just 1-8 from the field in the second half and finished with 14 points. Part of it was also that other players just couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities.
Isaac Cohen had a nice game, but he only took four shots from the field in the entire game and finished with eight points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Cohen — who said in the postgame that he is working on being more aggressive — had other opportunities to shoot and when an opponent is focused on taking Lo away and Cohen is being given chances that’s a must. In the first game between these two teams Chris McComber scored 13 points, but he was invisible in seven minutes on Tuesday, finish 0-1 from the field. Jeff Coby returned after a one-game absence and helped on the boards, but finished just 2-6 from the field and scored four points in 19 minutes. Ivy League teams are going to focus on cutting Lo’s offense off. If Columbia can’t find other scorers the Lions will be in big trouble.
2) How can the defense improve? Or was this just Stony Brook being ridiculous?: Despite the struggles without Lo, the Lions still managed to score 1.02 points per possession. The defensive end was another story. Columbia allowed 1.17 points per possession. A lot of that was due to the efficiency of Warney. SBU’s junior center dominated the paint, scored 25 points on 12-16 shooting from the field. Warney hit shots early and got on a roll. He also grabbed six offensive rebounds. The Lions were able to contain Puriefoy, who shot 1-10 from the field, and held the Seawolves to just 1-11 shooting from three, but still didn’t get stops. Why? They were unable to force turnovers.
Stony Brook had only five empty possessions during the entire game. After the Seawolves grabbed 38% of their misses in the first matchup at Island Federal Credit Union Area, Smith tried to match the size of SBU in the second matchup. The trade off though was that the Lions didn’t for much pressure and the Seawolves only turned the ball over five times in 62 offensive possessions (8%). Columbia doesn’t force a lot of turnovers generally — the Lions came in forcing turnovers on just 17% of possessions — but five is still a ridiculously low number. Smith needs to exhort his defense to be more aggressive and force miscues by opponents, so the Lions aren’t guarding for 35 seconds every time down the court.
3) There’s still a lot of time to recover: The non-conference slate against Division I opponents is over and Columbia could’ve used a win Tuesday. The Lions finish this part of the season at 7-6 with a few questionable losses and they certainly haven’t played their best basketball yet. Now that Smith has two weeks with only one game on the schedule — against DII Central Pennsylvania on Saturday — can the Lions figure out how to make the pierces work seamlessly before the Ivy League opener against Cornell? Figuring out how to maximize the play of Osetkowski, Luke Petrasek, Coby, and Connor Voss is Smith’s most important puzzle during these next few weeks. Those two games against Cornell to start Ivy League play could make or break Columbia’s postseason hopes, especially with four more home games immediately afterwards. The schedule broke in such a way that the Lions can get off to a hot start in the Ivy League, but will they be ready to take advantage? That’s the conundrum the Lions have been presented.