BROOKLYN—Good shooting could not make up for the Lions’ foul trouble on Tuesday night, as the men’s basketball team (4-3) fell to LIU Brooklyn 70-61 in the Blackbirds’ first win of the season.
“It was a hard-fought game,” head coach Kyle Smith said. “I thought we did some things to get ourselves a chance to win, but we just couldn’t keep them off the foul line in the second half.”
In the second half alone, there were 28 foul calls, 18 of which went against the Light Blue.
As a result, the Blackbirds (1-4) made 17 trips to the charity line in the second half, while the Lions’ senior center Mark Cisco and freshman guard Grant Mullins both fouled out.
“We did a good job with their zone—made them come out and go man, and when they went man, that’s when you saw the free throws start to go in our favor,” LIU head coach Jack Perri said
Though the Blackbirds had four times as many free throw attempts as the Lions, they only shot 57.6 percent from the line, which helped the Light Blue keep the score close until the final few minutes.
Cisco was a big factor for the Columbia offense in the second half, recording his first double-double of the season with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
“We were down at halftime, so I figured I might as well just go out and attack the inside,” Cisco said. “My shots were just falling pretty well tonight.”
But on the defensive end, Cisco and the Lions’ frontcourt had trouble stopping LIU’s two 6-foot-7 senior forwards, Jamal Olasewere and Julian Boyd, who consistently drew contact under the basket and accounted for 22 of their team’s free throw attempts.
In the first half, the LIU big men dominated the Lions’ frontcourt, making crowd-raising dunks on offense and clogging the lane on defense.
The Blackbirds’ defense only allowed three Lions—Cisco, Mullins, and senior guard Brian Barbour—to score before halftime, reflecting what Perri called the team’s big emphasis on defense going into the game.
Even so, Columbia managed to stop LIU from getting good looks under the basket, and the Lions only trailed 24-19 at the break.
“We played zone probably 75 percent of the game, and I thought we did a pretty good job for the first half,” Smith said.
At the start of the second half, a strong effort by Cisco and the Columbia frontcourt took the Blackbirds by surprise.
A baseline jumper by Cisco put the Lions ahead 31-30 with 15:38 left on the clock, and it looked like Columbia might pull further ahead.
But a free throw by Boyd—who finished with a game-high 19 points—and then a jumper by Olasewere gave the Blackbirds back a lead they wouldn’t again lose.
Mullins, who was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week on Monday, scored 15 points for the Lions, marking his fourth game in a row with at least 14.
But even with the offensive effort of Cisco, Mullins, and Barbour, the Lions could not find a way to stop LIU from getting foul calls or hitting threes at key moments.
The Lions’ loss marked the end of their four-game road swing, and they will face Bucknell on Saturday at home.