Sports | Basketball

Light Blue struggles with turnovers, inside defense

In Friday’s loss at Brown, men’s basketball held a two-point lead with 40 seconds to go. On its make-or-break possession, Brown burned a couple of time-outs to set up a play. With just five seconds left on the shot clock­—10 in the game—senior Matt Sullivan beat a Lion around a screen, got open briefly beyond the arc, and nailed the game-winning three.

In general this weekend, a lack of execution in smaller details hurt the Lions, as they lost to Brown 58-55, and Yale 75-56.

Sophomore forward Steve Frankoski noted that chasing over screens is something the team needs to do better, but against Brown, the team’s 19 turnovers­—up from an average of about 10 per game—might have been its biggest issue. Head coach Kyle Smith said that the team’s poor execution was the most prominent cause of all the turnovers.

The mistakes included uncharacteristic fumbled passes into the post and lost rebounds, wrestled away by Brown. After one such sequence, Smith appeared to motion to his center to be more forceful in getting and securing the rebound.

It didn’t help that the team was missing its starting guards and primary ball handlers, senior Brian Barbour and freshman Grant Mullins due to an illness and an ankle injury, respectively.
Although both played about half of the game on Saturday, sophomore guard Steve Frankoski said their absence over the weekend from regular minutes—combined, over 60 a game—threw off the team.

“The guard’s job is to find the scorer and look for their shots, and Grant and Brian do a good job of that,” Frankoski said.

The issues carried into New Haven, where the Light Blue committed 19 turnovers again, this time versus Yale. That game, though, highlighted several other prominent issues, as the Bulldogs shot nearly 70 percent in the first half. Frankoski mentioned after the game that the Light Blue defense needed to be better at getting around screens. Their struggles in that area led to Yale scoring 34 points in the paint.

Smith said another reason for Yale’s success inside—the Bulldogs shot better than 60 percent for the game overall—might have been that Columbia was too aggressive in guarding the perimeter. The Elis attempted only 10 treys, instead opting to shoot many jumpers from 10 to 15 feet away from the basket.

“We just got to learn how to do the little things better,” Frankoski said.

“We’ve been competing. I think we’re just mentally broke after last night,” Smith said on Saturday. “We have to do some soul searching.”

muneeb.alam@columbiaspectator.com | @muneebalamcu

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