Columbia entered Saturday night with a high octane offense, set to challenge Stony Brook in what they hoped would become a shootout.
In fact it did, for at least one half for the Lions: as they drained seven three-pointers and took a 36-25 lead into halftime.
“We shot the ball so well from three and we did a great job offensively,” head coach Kyle Smith said of their first half. “They’re a good team, so I figured they were going to make a run.”
They came out and scored the first six points of the second half too. In fact, their possession that created a 17-point lead appeared to be an early second half back breaker.
Kyle Castlin drove the ball in transition, but while losing the handle in the lane, managed to kick it out to Maodo Lo for three, which missed short where the 6’4” sophomore found the offensive rebound. Castlin then kicked it to Grant Mullins whose three-pointer put Columbia up 42-25 and prompted a timeout from Stony Brook. After that, the Lions had five straight empty possessions and the Seawolves were off and running. When it was over, it was 26-3 run and a big lead became a six-point deficit.
“We just didn’t counter on their pressure,” Smith said. “We pooped up the ball, gave them opportunities and got them momentum.”
The Lions, known for their offense, saw it self destruct in the second half at Island Federal Credit Union Arena. Columbia made just six of their remaining 24 field goals for the game since Mullins’ three-pointer, and turned it over 12 of their 13 times in that span.
They managed to score just 60 points, a season-low, falling 69-60 on the road at Stony Brook. Here are some takeaways from the Lions’ non-conference loss:
Local Big Petrasek Helps Out, But Isn’t Enough vs. Warney: In an area where most of Luke Petrasek’s games are close to home the Northport High School graduate had as close to a homecoming as he could in playing Suffolk County’s only Division I school.
“I just play like a normal road game, I had some people in the crowd, but I mean I don’t really think about any of that during the game,” Petrasek said. “We’ve kind of had a rivalry these last couple of years, playing each other a lot, and just wanted to win this game, particularly.”
This was Columbia’s second trip to Stony Brook’s $21.1 million renovated arena in as many seasons and the reason the Lions reached another double-digit lead in the first half was thanks to the junior who drew the toughest assignment: Jameel Warney. However most of the first half was the 6’10” forward’s show as the Northport native found his groove against the 6’8” senior, scoring their first five points and forcing Warney to guard out even beyond the arc to contest the junior.
“Offensively, the hedges left some shots open,” Petrasek said. “Tried to post him up, maybe get some fouls drawn, which worked in the first half, but second half it just couldn’t fall really.”
While Petrasek and the rest of the Lions struggled in the second half, his seven first half points opened up the rest of the floor for his teammates to find open three-pointers. The Seawolves adjusted and forced the junior to post up on smaller guards, where he struggled and with Warney helping, he could not attack the basket as much.
“We were keeping guys fresh in the first half, did a good job of finding [Warney], keeping it away from him,” Smith said of their defense on the senior Seawolf. “Then it just felt like we needed Luke in there to score and probably needed a little more help defensively, just to keep guys on him.”
The Lions kept attacking Warney to start the second half, but could not draw an early enough third foul to put the senior in trouble.
“We needed them to call a third one on him, which I think was there was chances because he played block on a couple,” Smith said. “I was like, we need that you get him out of the game and there’s your best chance. He’s going to rebound, no matter what. If he’s on the court, he’s going to rebound.”
Lions Struggle In Face of Seawolves Run: As the Seawolves mounted a 26-3 run, Columbia struggled to keep up in many ways. After Carson Puriefoy converted Stony Brook’s first points of the run, a layup after driving from the wing to cut the lead to 15, Petrasek lost the handle on the other end, leading to a Puriefoy steal and transition layup.
“Puriefoy stole it from Petrasek and that I think that kind of unnerved us a little bit,” Smith said. “ We didn’t do a good job defensively, I thought it was a really physical game and we didn’t get to the foul line. We couldn’t.”
Over the course of the Seawolves’ 26-3 run, Columbia turned the ball over seven times and with the wingspan of Warney preventing plenty of drives to the basket, the Lions reached the free throw line just 10 times, a new season-low.
However it was the way the Seawolves came back, getting an alley-oop thrown down by Ahmad Walker and a traditional three-point play from Warney that fueled the crowd and rocked the veteran Lions group.
“We didn’t do a good job on Warney,” Smith said. “[I] thought we would be okay offensively, but I just think we have to hold our composure a little better. We just didn’t keep our composure offensively.”
Columbia Gets Dealt a Local Non-Conference Lesson: Columbia finishes their non-conference slate with a 2-4 road record, as their last two games are at home before conference play begins against Cornell on Jan. 15. They were a possession away from beating St. Joseph’s at home, who is off to an 11-2 start and looks to be an Atlantic 10 contender, but their nine point margin of defeat was helped by late baskets to close what became a lead as large as 12 in the game’s late stages.
“When they hit at us that we just didn’t, I don’t know, we hung our heads a little bit,” Smith said. “Maybe its, we’re without Alex and Isaac, but we just got to get tough. Hopefully it’s a learning experience and we’ll be in those situations again and we just have to bear down and get tougher.”
Smith said he is “thinking around league” play is when he will have seniors Alex Rosenberg and Isaac Cohen, so the next two games should be a solid proving ground for the Lions bench.
The Lions out rebounded the Seawolves and even generated 14 offensive rebounds, compared to just 12 for Stony Brook. Columbia managed to hold Stony Brook to just 45.7% on their two-point field goals and they converted just four three-pointers, but for the first time this season the offense – who entered as the best in the Ivy League – lagged behind.
“I’m proud of how we guarded in the first half, we just got to put two halves together,” Smith said. “It was a step in the right direction. We were able to defend and rebound well enough to win, we just, we weren’t good offensively, period.
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.