Saturday night was a different kind of night for Columbia. For the second straight week, the Lions exorcised the demons of a Friday night loss by putting on a spectacular shooting show in an 83-56 victory over Penn.
The Lions scored 1.41 points per possession and shot 52% on twos and a blistering 58% (15-26) on threes. But neither Kyle Smith nor his players could tell you how it happened.
“I wish I could tell you,” Smith said about the hot shooting. “I don’t know. I just think that our guys were really excited and played with a little joy. There was a tightness that we were playing with.”
“I can’t tell you either,” Maodo Lo added. “I don’t know. Sometimes they fall. Sometimes they don’t. That’s all I can say. We penetrated the ball well, kicked it out. We’ve been working on that for the past week. We were successful at that and creating open shots for our teammates.”
Every shot was falling for Columbia on Saturday at a sold out Levien Gymnasium. Every Lion finished with an offensive rating above 100 in the game and four players scored in double figures. It was senior Steve Frankoski that set the tone for the Lions early. Frankoski hyped up his teammates before the game and then backed it up by diving into the scorer’s table on a defensive play early in the game. (Both he and the table were eventually fine.)
“When Frank is dialed in and motivated, he drags everyone along,” Lo said. “He was very energized before the game and got us going. And that play. Not only was he talking right, but that play really reflected his attitude and that kind of got us going. It got me going.”
Frankoski scored nine points on 3-5 shooting from three in 18 minutes off the bench. Lo scored a team-high 16 points in 35 minutes.
Part of the reason the offense was so efficient is that a young Penn team made some mental errors. The Quakers were the first team in a quite awhile that didn’t come out and attack Lo on the pick-and-rolls — though that might’ve been less gameplan and poor execution. Lo’s ability to penetrate into the teeth of the defense seemed to fluster Penn. The Lions had 16 assists overall, including five by Isaac Cohen.
The Lions were also locked in defensively during the first half. Penn trailed 46-19 at the break and never got close during the second half. The Quakers’ stars failed to show up offensively as Tony Hicks shot 1-11 from the field and seemed frustrated for much of the night. Darien Nelson-Henry scored only two points in 18 minutes.
Smith called the Lions’ defensive effort against Nelson-Henry “terrific.”
“We did a great job. We fronted him and made it tough for him to get catches,” Smith said.
After playing only a few minutes due to Princeton’s ability to play more mobile big men, Cory Osetkowski made a big impact against Penn. He had 11 points and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench.
The only Quaker the Lions weren’t able to contain was sharpshooter Sam Jones. Playing with damaged ligaments in his left elbow, Jones shot 7-12 from three and scored 23 points. He hit shots with a hand in his face and ones where the closeouts were late and he was left wide open. In fact, Jones seemed to be the only Penn player who could make something happen offensively.
The win leaves the Lions at 3-3 in Ivy League play and 11-9 overall. There’s still certainly a chance for postseason play, perhaps another appearance in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, but first the Lions need to see if they can take some of this momentum with them on the road. A huge game looms at Harvard this Friday. After beating Yale the Crimson are now tied atop the league standings. A Columbia upset would help break things open once again.
The Crimson will also come to Levien on the final Saturday in February. Will that game be as close as last season’s near miss? Surely, if the Lions have finally found their home shooting touch.