After continuing its strong play at home last weekend, the men's basketball team (12-6, 1-0 Ivy) will go on the road to face Ivy travel partner Cornell (1-14, 0-1 Ivy).
Last Saturday's 71-61 win over the Big Red reminded the Light Blue of how close conference matches have tended to be for the Lions.
“The first one always reminds you of how intense they are,” Lion head coach Kyle Smith said. “Closing those games out is hard.”
Columbia was expected to beat Cornell comfortably on Saturday and led the Big Red by 17 with 3:42 left to play. But the Big Red hit a few shots in row—including three from beyond the arc—to pull within six with 50 seconds to play.
“Threes are the great equalizer,” Smith said.
Smith also said that Cornell's smaller, faster lineup allowed it to pressure the Lions on their own threes—a shot on which they heavily rely. Columbia averages 22 three-point field goal attempts per game—tied for 41st in the country—and ranks 13th in three-point field goal percentage.
“We've been very fortunate at home, shooting the three well,” Smith said. “You can separate when you do that.”
The Light Blue made only five of 17 attempts from long range on Saturday, but in future games, Columbia's outside shooting may be bolstered by the return of junior guard Steve Frankoski. Frankoski got back into action earlier this month, but did not play against Cornell.
“Right now, he's just right on the bubble,” Smith said. “It's tough right now because [junior guard] Meiko [Lyles] has been getting it done defensively, and rebounding, and been in the mix the whole time.”
On Saturday, without another outside shooter like Frankoski, Columbia had to rely more on its inside game. The starting sophomore backcourt trio—Isaac Cohen, Grant Mullins, and Maodo Lo—had success getting to the basket, as it has all season, and scored a combined 41 points.
The Lion frontcourt had a little more trouble. While junior forward Alex Rosenberg continued his scoring binge with his fourth 20-point performance in five outings, junior center Cory Osetkowski and first-year forward Luke Petrasek scored a combined three points to go along with 10 rebounds and eight fouls.
“They fronted the post and made it hard for Luke [Petrasek] and Cory [Osetkowski] to get catches,” Smith said.
He added that he expects more of the same on Saturday.
Tipoff is at noon in Ithaca, N.Y.