In its last two games, the men’s basketball team faced opponents led by powerful frontcourts. But despite strong efforts by the Columbia big men, the Lions came up short both times. On Sunday, the Lions (4-4) will take on another tough frontcourt when they face American (4-5) in Washington, D.C.
Since the Light Blue’s upset of Villanova before Thanksgiving break, the team has struggled to keep up its success, winning only one of four games.
The most recent loss came at home against Bucknell last Saturday. The Lions led the Bison for most of the game—at one point by as many as 17 points—but in the end were unable to put a stop to Bucknell center Mike Muscala.
After the game, head coach Kyle Smith said the Lions played decently on the defensive end, but that they did not keep up offensively with Muscala—who tallied a game-high 29 points and 19 rebounds.
“Overall, it was just our inability to execute offensively down the stretch that didn’t give us a chance,” Smith said. “We have to put the ball in the basket, and part of that is growing up.”
In the first half, senior center Mark Cisco was perfect from the field and led the Light Blue’s scoring with 10 points. But Cisco, who had three fouls before halftime, didn’t hit a single basket in the second period.
After the game, Cisco—who fouled out in the last two minutes of the game—said part of the reason he was unable to effectively guard Muscala was because of his foul trouble, which has been an issue for the Lions in their last two contests.
Against LIU Brooklyn last week, the Lions recorded 23 fouls, which gave the Blackbirds 17 trips to the charity stripe in the second half alone.
While Cisco recorded a double-double, the strong play of forwards Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere was too much for Columbia.
Like LIU and Bucknell, American also boasts a strong set of big men in senior forward Stephen Lumpkins, the team’s leading scorer, and center Tony Wroblicky.
The Eagles are coming off of a 73-70 double-overtime victory on Thursday against Maryland, Baltimore County. Guards Daniel Munoz and John Schoof proved that they will also be a threat against the Lions, as each scored 19 points.
The Retrievers managed to limit Lumpkins on the offensive end, keeping him off the scoreboard entirely in the first half. But even so, the senior forward managed to post a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Last year, when the Eagles and Lions faced off, American came out on top, 66-58, in a closely-contested game that had 11 lead changes and 11 ties.
In that game, Cisco recorded his first collegiate double-double, but inspired play by forward Charles Hinkle gave the Eagles the extra push at the end of the game to take the win.
Though Hinkle has graduated, the Lions will have to find a way to deal with Lumpkins, who is having a fantastic year after missing all of last season when he was drafted by the Kansas City Royals.
As the last two games have shown, the Lions have struggled to stop strong, big men, but after the Bucknell loss, Smith said the Lions just needed some more practice time to work out the kinks.
“Boyd, Olasewere, and Muscala—those seniors are really good players,” he said. “But we have good players too, and we’ll get better.”
Sunday will be Columbia’s last game until Dec. 22. Tipoff is at 2 p.m.