Following a 65-59 loss to St. John's on Dec. 28, the men's basketball team sat at 7-6, just one game above .500.
There were certainly positives to look back on at that point in the season—a winning record, a near-win at then-No. 2 Michigan State—but the team had yet to hit its stride. Today, the Lions are sitting at 12-6, winners of five straight after taking down Cornell 71-61 in their Ivy opener. While a number of players have stepped up for Columbia over that stretch, Alex Rosenberg stands out from the pack.
The junior forward, who was inserted into the Lions' starting lineup following the loss to the Red Storm, has scored at least 19 points in every game since and has twice been named Ivy League Player of the Week.
“He's just been good,” Columbia head coach Kyle Smith said before last Saturday's game against Cornell. “He's just been even-keeled on his emotions, and just playing really well.”
Prior to the 2013-14 campaign, Rosenberg had been a fixture of the Lions' starting quintet, with 24 starts both as a first-year and sophomore. But for the first 13 games of this season, Rosenberg came off the bench. After posting double-digit scoring totals in eight straight games as Columbia's sixth man, the 6-foot-7 Rosenberg finally got the start against Colgate on Dec. 30.
According to Smith, that game—a 76-70 Columbia win and double-overtime thriller—was a huge one for the Light Blue.
“I think that Colgate win was a big hurdle, big monkey off our back,” Smith said.
Rosenberg starred for the Lions in the victory, leading all scorers with 23 points and grabbing a team-high nine rebounds. He picked up three steals on the defensive end as well.
Thanks in large part to Rosenberg, Columbia picked up its first overtime win since the 2003-04 season that night. Rosenberg has started every game since.
He followed up his starting lineup debut with a scoring barrage, putting up totals of 21, 24, and 19 points in the Lions' next three games, and the junior forward picked up right where he left off on Saturday, when Columbia took down the Big Red in its first Ancient Eight contest.
Rosenberg once again led all scorers, putting up 20 points—including 13 in the first half alone.
“My teammates are finding me in good positions; I'm able to post up, get open drives,” Rosenberg said after the game. “I think as the season progresses, the offense—it's tough to guard.”
While the Lions have received a steady dose of offense from sophomore guards Grant Mullins and Maodo Lo and first-year forward Luke Petrasek—Smith noted that teams get better offensively as the season rolls along—Rosenberg has loomed larger than the rest on the stat sheet during the team's recent surge. He now leads the team in scoring, averaging 13.9 points per game despite having started only five games this season.
Although he gives his teammates much of the credit for his success over the last couple of weeks, Rosenberg is not afraid to acknowledge his potency as an offensive weapon.
“I feel like I have a mismatch the majority of the time,” Rosenberg said on Saturday.
Given the numbers he's been putting up, it will be up to Cornell to prove him wrong this weekend in Ithaca.
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