Last year, the men’s basketball team played well defensively but relied a little too much on now-senior guard and co-captain Brian Barbour for scoring. But this year, by using both centers at the same time, the team may do better both defensively and offensively.
One game into the season, the strategy is working as planned. On Saturday, the Lions beat Furman, 68-47, in their season opener. Barbour led the way with 19 points and eight assists, and sophomore guard Steve Frankoski—seeing his first regular-season action since March 2011—added 16 points.
“I would definitely say the first half, I definitely got my jitters out,” Frankoski said. “The first game in general, I kind of got all my nervousness out. In the second half I got to calm down a little bit. It just felt great, being back out there.”
Barbour said Frankowski and sophomore forward Alex Rosenberg were key in setting the tone early.
“Frank hit a couple of shots, Rosenberg played really well in the first half, and we were able to build a lead,” he said.
Furman forward Colin Reddick, the only Paladin to score in double figures, put the hosts in front early with a steal and a jump shot, but Columbia responded with nine unanswered points as part of a 30-5 run.
The Lions squandered a second-half lead against Furman a year ago, but in 2012 the team protected its 20-point halftime advantage, never letting it fall below 18. Their dominant performance came in spite of poor offensive showings by sophomore center Cory Osetkowski and senior center Mark Cisco, who combined to go 3-14 from the field with five rebounds.
Both players also got into foul trouble, with Osetkowski fouling out and Cisco a foul away from the same fate.
“Cory was a little nervous, but he was a defensive presence,” head coach Kyle Smith said. “They had him for two blocks. ... He had at least three.”
According to Smith, though, both Osetkowski and Cisco should make a higher proportion of their shots in the future as they get more comfortable with the new frontcourt dynamic. Cisco led the Ivy League in field goal percentage last season.
While in other games these frontcourt difficulties could be a problem, the Light Blue’s strong all-around performance more than made up for the off night down low. In addition to Barbour and Frankoski, Rosenberg and freshman guard Grant Mullins were able to pick up the slack, with 14 and eight points, respectively.
Smith said Mullins looked “terrific” playing alongside Barbour, and freshman forward Zach En’Wezoh saw a little over 10 minutes of playing time as well.
“I think Zach was pretty active at times. He did a good job in the zone, too,” Barbour said. “Grant did a very good job today, shooting the ball, pushing it, playing good defense.”
But for both, their first games were cut short, Mullins’ due to a minor knee injury, and En’Wezoh’s thanks to foul trouble.