The men’s basketball team will finish its stretch of five straight road games this weekend against Penn and Princeton.
Though boasting a 9-1 record at home, the Lions (13-8, 2-2 Ivy) have had trouble winning away from Levien. The Light Blue, which holds a 2-6 road record this season, dropped its games at Yale and Brown last weekend. But Columbia is far from the only team in the Ivy League that’s struggled playing away, and head coach Kyle Smith said he is not concerned about the Lions’ road record.
“There’s only two teams that have won a road game in the league, and we’re one of them,” Smith said.
After visiting teams went 0-8 this past weekend in the Ancient Eight, Columbia sits in the middle of the Ivy League pack, tied with Dartmouth and trailing Harvard, Brown, and Yale in the standings.
Columbia’s first opponent will be a Princeton team (12-5, 0-3 Ivy) that’s seeking its first Ivy win of the season. Despite the Tigers’ Ivy record, they do not lack offensive weapons as guard T.J. Bray is averaging 17.8 points per game.
Princeton leads the Ancient Eight in points per game, averaging 75.1, but the Tiger offense will be up against a Columbia defense that has been highly effective this season, holding opponents to just 62.1 points per game on average.
Columbia suffered defeats in both its games against the Tigers last season, and historically Princeton’s Jadwin Gym has not been kind to the Lions. The Light Blue last won a game there in 1993.
But Smith said that he was happy with the way the team competed a year ago, and added that this year’s Tiger squad is very different.
“They’re not as big around the basket, but they’re a little more lethal, skill-wise,” Smith said. “They’ve got a little more weapons.”
Columbia was slightly more successful against Penn last year, splitting its two games against the Quakers.
Like Columbia and Princeton, Penn (4-13, 1-3 Ivy) is also coming off two road losses.
In order to come away with a win at the Palestra, the Lions will need to check the Quakers’ leading scorers—guards Tony Hicks and Miles Cartwright—as well as center Darien Nelson-Henry, who ranks as one of the Ivy League’s premier big men.
“Nelson-Henry is a key for them. We have to do a good job on him,” Smith said. It’s important, he added, that the Lions “not let those guys on their home court feel good about themselves.”
The Lions will need junior center Cory Osetkowski to help them counter Nelson-Henry down low. Osetkowski recently had one of the best games of his career against Cornell, tallying 19 points and five blocks.
“Cory’s gonna have to stay in the game, gonna have to be a wall in there,” Smith said. “It’s important that Cory gives us 25 to 27 minutes of good, solid post D.”
Columbia’s top scorers—junior forward Alex Rosenberg and sophomore guards Maodo Lo and Grant Mullins—will be crucial for the Lions. Rosenberg has been on a tear since being inserted into the starting lineup in late December, while Mullins and Lo have consistently been offensive weapons for the Lions.
Tipoff in Princeton, N.J., is set for 7 p.m. Friday. The Lions will then face Penn on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Philadelphia, Pa.