Coming into conference play, the men's basketball team was the third-best in the Ivy League by several rating measures—record, Ratings Percentage Index, and Ken Pomeroy rankings included. In theory, if second-place Princeton or first-place Harvard slipped early in conference play, Columbia—winners of four straight games at that point—would be in prime position to step in and contend for the Ivy title.
Princeton has now dropped its first three Ivy games. But instead of taking advantage and moving up the standings, the Light Blue (13-8, 2-2 Ivy) dropped both its games over the weekend, falling at Yale (9-9, 3-1 Ivy) on Friday, 69-59, and Brown (11-7, 3-1 Ivy) on Saturday, 64-56.
Columbia head coach Kyle Smith echoed after both games that the team's shooting was one of the reasons the team lost.
“We had our chances, and we didn't take care of the ball well enough or shoot the ball well enough,” Smith said after the loss in New Haven.
In particular, the Lions' bread-and-butter shot—the three—was not falling. Columbia shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc in nonconference play, but shot only 26 percent over the weekend.
“People have determined to guard us, really put a lot of pressure on our perimeter,” Smith said.
He added that the Lions were able to adjust, shooting from inside the arc and getting to the free-throw line. They were especially successful in the game with Yale, which, physically, got out of hand in the second half.
With the Bulldogs up 35-25 about five minutes into the half, Columbia inbounded the ball and raced into transition. Junior forward Alex Rosenberg, though, collided with a referee and fell. First-year forward Javier Duren fell on top of Rosenberg trying to get to the loose ball, and players from both teams came together in defense of their teammates. After a lengthy video review to determine the proper foul calls, the officials awarded two free throws to each team and gave Columbia the ball.
While the free-throw tally broke even on that sequence, Yale ended up with 33 trips to the charity stripe in the second half of its 69-59 win—a far cry from Columbia's 20. Smith voiced his displeasure with the officiating after the game, although he admitted that he did not have a clear view of that sequence in particular.
While team discipline and the ability to draw fouls may have altered the outcome at Yale, Columbia faced different problems against Brown. The Lions, again pressured along the perimeter, frequently rushed long-range shots, shooting 6-of-22 from beyond the arc. Moreover, with Brown forwards Rafael Maia and Cedric Kuakumensah, the reigning Ivy Defensive Player of the Year, roaming the paint, the Light Blue was unable to successfully attack the rim.
“Actually got some good shots and good attempts against probably one of the better defensive teams in the league, but couldn't convert,” Smith said of Columbia. “I thought we defended well enough to give ourselves a chance to win on the road.”
While threes from sophomore guard Maodo Lo and Rosenberg gave the Lions the lead early in the second half, they failed to knock down a single field goal in the final 9:41 of the game. With six minutes to play, a three-point play from Maia put the hosts ahead for good.
“I think we have to execute better offensively, and hopefully maintain our defensive integrity,” Smith said.
The Lions play next weekend at Princeton and Penn.