It was just one scoring play in a game that featured 169 total points, but early in the first half of Columbia’s season-opening, 107-62 win on Friday morning, Grant Mullins broke down Kean’s zone and dumped a pass to Alex Rosenberg on the left block for a layup.
For those two players, though, it meant more. Mullins and Rosenberg each missed the 2014-15 season because of injuries. That play that gave Columbia a 5-4 lead over its visiting Division III foe was the first connection between the two teammates in more than 20 months.
“Being out there to play another game, back on the floor after 20 months,” Rosenberg said, “it’s a great feeling to get a win.”
Both Rosenberg and Mullins seemed a bit rusty at times. Rosenberg finished 0-5 from long range, and Mullins missed both of his attempted shots in eight first-half minutes.
But Rosenberg, who missed last year with a fractured foot, did not shy away from contact in the lane. He converted three of his six two-point attempts and had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Mullins had the most impressive spurt of the two, scoring all of Columbia’s points in an 11-3 run that put the Lions ahead 59-38 with 16:54 left. Mullins started by knocking down a 3-pointer from the right wing, off a pass from Rosenberg. He picked Kevin Grek’s pocket and finished a layup 15 seconds later before hitting 3-pointers on Columbia’s next two possessions.
“Grant was a little sluggish today early,” coach Kyle Smith said, “and I said, as we started the second half, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get with it,’ and he responded. He’s a competitor. He’s great.”
Said Mullins, “My [injury is] a thing of the past. I feel great right now. It was good to get back out there with the guys.”
C.J. Davis steals the show
The freshman came off the bench and poured in a game-high 19 points in 15 minutes, shooting 7-9 from the floor and 5-6 from deep in his collegiate debut. He added four assists (with one turnover), two steals and two rebounds.
Davis displayed the poise that made him a highly regarded prospect out of Archbishop Molloy as soon as he checked into the game, intercepting a pass in the halfcourt, pushing ahead and spinning off his defender to finish a layup. He stole another pass less than a minute later and knocked down a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession. Those two buckets sparked a 12-3 run that opened a 40-23 lead for Columbia.
“We chuckled with C.J.,” Smith said, “because he’s supposed to be our Steady Eddie point guard, like set-the-table guy, and he splats five threes and is really aggressive.”
Smith likes Conor Voss down low
Voss drew the start against Kean and provided 18 solid minutes. The 7’1 center had six points, eight rebounds (five offensive) and three blocks, though Kean’s tallest player stood at 6’5.
“He can rebound in traffic,” Smith said. “It’s actually harder for a guy to play when they’re rolling out five guards. If there’s a big strong body for him to bang with, I know he’s going to help us.”
Backup center Luke Petrasek had six points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block in 18 minutes off the bench. Forward Lukas Meisner had four points, six rebounds and a block in his debut.
Depth on display
Maodo Lo, Grant Mullins and Isaac Cohen have entrenched themselves in their roles in Columbia’s backcourt, but the Lions showed they have options beyond that trio of seniors. In addition to Davis, Nate Hickman (15 points, three assists), Quinton Adlesh (nine points, five rebounds, three assists) and Kyle Castlin (eight points, two rebounds, two blocks) provided solid production off the bench.
“I’ve been here long enough to understand those back-to-backs for six weeks [in Ivy League play], you’re going to need someone to step up late on Saturday night,” Smith said. “It’s going to be hard to play seven guys through an Ivy League schedule and have your guards play 35 minutes a game and think you’re going to have success.”
Free-throw shooting woes
Columbia shot 13-for-28 from the foul line. Voss was 2-for-5, and Lo was 1-for-4. Smith said the Lions were 28-for-32 from the stripe in one of their secret scrimmages, brushing off serious concern.
Lions dig the long ball
Forty-six of Columbia’s 80 field-goal attempts came from long range. The Lions knocked down 16 three-pointers at a rate of 34.8 percent. Davis led the way with five treys, while Lo was 4-9 and Mullins was 3-9. Lo and Mullins each attempted just one two-pointer.