Lions head coach Kyle Smith said that when this season's schedule was drawn up, he didn't expect the men's basketball team (1-0) to play so many teams favored to win their conferences. Columbia faces its first opponent from that group tonight, crosstown rival Manhattan (1-0).
“We'll know a lot more about ourselves this next week,” Smith said. “See if we can rebound the ball, for sure.”
Manhattan only finished sixth in the competitive 10-team Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference last season. The Jaspers' nine conference losses, however, all came by 10 points or fewer, including six by four points or fewer, and the team has lost only one senior. The rest of the team has returned, including versatile guard/forward George Beamon, who returns after missing most of last season due to injury.
“He's hard-driving, scoring,” Smith said. “He's going to make an issue. We've got to figure out a way to try to defend him.”
Beamon's combination of size and agility can make him a tough player to defend, especially for the Lions, who lack familiarity with Beamon due to his absence. Moreover, the Lions graduated three of their top defensive options from last season in guard Brian Barbour, center Mark Cisco, and forward John Daniels.
Beamon had a tough shooting night in Manhattan's season opener at LaSalle, going 6-20 from the field, but was key in the second overtime, hitting all eight of his free throw attempts in a 99-90 Jaspers win.
The Lions got their season off on the right foot as well, with a comfortable win over Maryland-Eastern Shore on Saturday. The Light Blue out-rebounded UMES; shot well from the field, beyond the arc, and the free throw line; and passed the ball well while keeping the turnover count down. Sophomore guards Grant Mullins and Isaac Cohen and junior center Cory Osetkowski all scored in double figures, while first-year forward Luke Petrasek also played well in his first collegiate start.
Last year, Columbia defeated Beamon-less Manhattan 69-58 at home, due in large part to a strong defensive performance in the first half. Barbour, junior forward Alex Rosenberg, and junior guard Steve Frankoski all scored in double figures. Center Rhamel Brown scored 25 points for the visitors.
Tip-off is at 7 p.m. in Levien Gymnasium.