Columbia preparing for “big” future

The Ivy League is losing a number of key players from last season, but one team that will return much of its rotation is Columbia. Still, like every team in the league in 2012-13 the Lions are going to be relying on some young talent in order to move up in the league standings.

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Season At A Glance — Columbia

This is the third of what will eventually be capsules for each of the NYC teams when I’m sure their season has concluded.

Team: Columbia

Record: 15-15 (4-10 in the Ivy League)

Season High: Sweeping round-robin at Loyola Marymount

Season Low: Losing at Brown 94-68

Really Good At: Defensive Rebounding — Columbia was strong on the defensive glass all season thanks to the efforts of Mark Cisco, John Daniels and Blaise Staab. They were first in the Ivy League during conference play in defensive rebounding and 20th in the country overall.

Struggled With: The rest of defense — A defense that looked very strong in non-conference play struggled during Ivy League play. The Lions failed to force turnovers or prevent opponents from getting to the line and it resulted in the second worst defense in the league during conference play.

Key Losses:

  • Matt Johnson (defensive stopper that started a few early season games)
  • Blaise Staab (quality rebounder and strong body in the paint)
  • Chris Crockett (three-point specialist and extra ball handler off the bench)
  • Steve Egee (captain and played with a lot of heart, was third on team in DR%)

Key Returnees:

  • Brian Barbour, Jr., G (All-Ivy quality point guard, 15.5 PPG, 4.5 APG)
  • Noruwa Agho, Sr., G (played only two games due to knee injury)
  • Mark Cisco, Jr., C (10 PPG, 7.2 RPG)
  • Meiko Lyles, So., G (10.6 PPG, 43.9% from three)

Key Quotes:

“Meiko being able to play 30-plus minutes a game is important. Barbour going through two years of playing that way it’s important. … We’ve got a little more experience that should help.” — Kyle Smith

“It definitely gives us some confidence. Going into this year we hadn’t really had a taste of being in games and being competitive in a couple games. We have experience now. That always helps.” — Brian Barbour

“We have high expectations going into next year. Not many people would go 4-10 and be excited for next year, but I think with this team it’s going to be a very good year for us.” — Barbour

Outlook: Good. There are reasons for Columbia fans to be excited for 2012-13. First of all most of the talent will return. Better yet it’ll be complemented by some players that are talented in their own right. Adding Steve Frankoski and Noruwa Agho to the base built up this season should give Kyle Smith a deep rotation next season. The question becomes can this team get tougher? Can it win the close games? Some of that is luck, but some of it is finding a way to get the best shot possible under two minutes, making free throws and locking down defensively. Still, it’s possible that Brian Barbour and Mark Cisco could both be All-Ivy performers next season. Meiko Lyles gives Columbia a third option and with a year of experience Alex Rosenberg, Cory Osetowski and Noah Springwater should be able to provide help off the bench. How does Agho integrate back into the rotation? What happens with a healthy Frankoski? Those are good questions for Smith to have to deal with next season.

Columbia finishes out season on high note

It wouldn’t have fit into Columbia’s season if it wasn’t close, so the Lions let Dartmouth hang around for 38 minutes before two big threes from Brian Barbour and Meiko Lyles finished off the Big Green.

“It’s crazy. I thought we played a tough game and we couldn’t get away from them,” said Columbia head coach Kyle Smith. “You look at the box score it just looks like we played an unbelievable game and we barely could get it done.”

Columbia shot 7-15 from three, had 14 assists to eight turnovers and held Dartmouth to 1-11 from distance, but still had to come up with some big shots down the stretch because of some little things. Things like missing the front end of a 1-and-1 and shooting 12-18 from the line overall as a team.

Those are the types of things that make Columbia’s final record of 15-15 and 4-10 in the Ivy League so deceiving. The Lions were in all but two games this season in league play, they just had trouble closing games out. Going all the way back to the first weekend of league play against Penn and Princeton up until Friday night’s overtime loss to Harvard, Columbia found lots of ways to lose nail biters.

That’s also why this group, which loses four seniors from the rotation but no key parts, has so much to look forward to. A year of development for Lyles, Cisco and Barbour and the freshman can only pay dividends moving forward. Noruwa Agho, who wasn’t honored at Senior Night as Columbia hopes his waiver request for another season will be approved, could also rejoin the Lions along with Steve Frankoski. Put it all together and there should be talent and depth throughout the roster.

Hopefully another year of experience will help with all the close games.

“I don’t know how to coach that out of us, but we’re going to get that out,” said Smith about Columbia’s tendency to let opponents get back into games. “I don’t know what it is, just have to be a little tougher probably, a little grittier.”

But on Saturday night it was all about the current group of seniors. Smith started the four seniors that were honored at Levien and they held down the fort along with Barbour for the first four minutes of the game. The set up led to Columbia getting 44 points of the bench.

“I was excited to start the seniors because it could also shorten the game,” Smith said. “I could get them four, five minutes instead of trying to fit them in. I thought it would give some of the other guys a little blow.”

Fan favorite Steve Egee played 17 minutes, scored four points and grabbed four rebounds.

“It’s great to go out on a win like that,” Egee said. “We’ve had some tough losses in league. To get a win to end the season and especially the four seniors’ careers, it’s really something special. I thought everybody played tough tonight.”

Lyles finished with 23 points and Mark Cisco had 15 points and nine boards. Barbour finished his junior campaign with nine points, five assists and one turnover in 36 minutes.

“I’m glad we go it done for [the seniors] to send them out on a good note. They work harder than anybody,” Lyles said.

Jvonte Brooks led Dartmouth with 17 points, including 9-10 shooting from the free throw line. His physical play down low forced both Cisco and Corey Osetkowski into foul trouble. Osetkowski committed four fouls in 13 minutes. Cisco fouled out after 30 minutes.

Columbia falls in final minutes to American

Columbia's Mark Cisco makes his move.

For the second game in a row Columbia had an opponent right where it wanted them. The Lions were up four on American with 6:17 to play, but let the lead slip away and the Eagles pulled out a 66-58 victory at Levien Gymnasium on Saturday night.

American closed on an 18-6 run over the final six minutes of the game.

“We’ve got to study it some,” said Columbia head coach Kyle Smith. “We’ve got to put ourselves in more of those situations in practice. We’ve got guys that haven’t been in those situations at all. There’s really nothing like game experience, but at the same time we have to look at what we can do coaching wise.”

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