Sports

Light Blue needs to hit its threes

Ivy title hopes for the men's basketball team are unfortunately getting swallowed down the drain after back-to-back losses at Yale and Brown last weekend.

Winning on the road is a tough task in Ivy play---to be fair, last weekend, road teams went 0-8. Home-court advantage really does matter in some cases. It may have played a significant role in the Lions’ losses to the Bulldogs and Bears last weekend---both teams with worse overall records than Columbia's. The fact that Columbia has played consecutive road games for the first time since early November could only have made playing that much more difficult.

But home-away splits notwithstanding, over the past two years, a curious trend of scoring inconsistency (especially in conference play) has emerged in Columbia hoops, and I think it has to do with its reliance on the three.

Per hoop-math, the Light Blue ranks 17th in the country with over 42 percent of its field goal attempts coming from three-point territory. It’s an offensive strategy that has largely rewarded Columbia this season, but the three tends to worry stat geeks because it’s volatile and inconsistent. One night the Lions can shoot like Creighton, and another night the Lions shoot like Cornell. That’s what happens when you put more eggs (i.e. points) into fewer baskets (i.e. shots).

Three-pointers are hard to make. They are lower percentage shots than, say, layups and short jumpers, and last weekend illustrated how Columbia can sometimes die by its outside shooting, or at the very least be forced to change its offensive flow.

On Friday, the Lions attempted to counteract recent struggles from behind the arc by aggressively driving to the basket, and actually did a decent job getting to the rack and the foul line, although they could have shot better from two-point territory.

However, Saturday in Providence was a different story. Columbia attempted to take 22 three-pointers, and the Light Blue only made six.

The Light Blue settled for contested shots from long-range in the loss, and to make matters worse, was also not in top form at the free-throw line. Columbia shot just 19 free throws and made 12. The Lions weren’t exactly Jan Vesely of the Washington Wizards, but they weren’t their usual terrific selves either. Columbia has actually shot 76 percent from the free throw line this season, which ranks eighth in the nation!

Most nights, the Light Blue will shoot better from the line, and, most likely, better from outside the arc. Consecutive losses in Ivy play are concerning, but there’s no need to go into panic mode yet (also known as the time to wear jerseys backwards). With a 6-for-22 night from beyond the arc in their rearview mirror, the Lions can only hope some positive regression to the mean is in their future. In short: They need to hit their threes.

They should especially watch out for tonight against Princeton, the "Ancient Eight’s" best offense.

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