Senior forward Josh Figini rolled off a screen to the top of the key, finding the ball in his hands in a familiar spot on the court. With just enough space to get a shot off, he nailed a three-pointer, his second of the game from the top of the arc. His shot cut Columbia’s lead to one with just under 14 minutes left in the game, but it was not enough momentum to propel the Red to a victory. The Lions went on a 13-2 run after that basket, and though the Red fought back throughout the final minutes, the squad dropped its first conference home game of the season, 67-58.
The Lions took advantage of the Red’s offensive drought in the second half, as Columbia’s senior guard Brian Barbour was consistently able to weave his way into the lane.
“We lost a bit of our defensive intensity there and they were able to capitalize,” said senior forward Eitan Chemerinski. “Brian [Barbour] made a couple tough shots and they got some confidence from that.”
When Barbour was not scoring in the paint, he was able to dish the ball out to Columbia big man Mark Cisco or their perimeter shooters.
“We weren’t communicating, weren’t talking to each other and we were a little bit slow on the defensive end,” said senior guard Johnathan Gray. “Maybe fatigue set in, which hasn’t really been a problem for us.”
Columbia had a solid rotation of guards between Barbour, Steve Grankoski and Grant Mullins who pestered the Red’s normally sound defense the entire game. Barbour had 16 points on 5 of 12 shooting, while Mullins and Frankoski combined for 23 points, including five three pointers.
“Their guards were quick, we just have to keep our toughness and make sure we keep the guards out of the lane and keep them from having easy dribble penetration,” Chemerinski said.
“Our individual defense has to be a lot better,” Gray said. “It sounds easy but it will be tough. They have a lot of quick guards and we have to contain them and try to be disciplined. They did a good job spacing us out and making us work the whole shot clock.
Cisco — who gave the Red trouble in its loss to Columbia last season — had another solid game with 18 points and nine rebounds, but most of his scoring again came off dribble penetration by the guards.
“He had a big game but the way he was scoring we’re not too worried about,” Gray said. “He had a lot of drop off opportunities where he just laid the ball in.”
Offensively, the Red was able to stay with the Lions in the first half, going into the locker room down by three. The Red shot the ball well, with Gray and freshman guard Nolan Cressler getting hot from beyond the arc. Cressler had 11 points in the first half with three triples and a tip in under the basket on a missed three-pointer by junior guard Dominick Scelfo. However, Cressler was held scoreless for the final 27 minutes of the game.
Gray was able to pick up where he left off, scoring ten points on the day. He scored seven of the Red’s eight points to end the first half, keeping the squad within striking distance.
In the second half, though, the Red was unable to get as many good looks. Sophomore forward Shonn Miller led the Red’s scoring with 13 points, ten of which came in the final 20 minutes. The two squads traded baskets for most of the half until the Lions made their mini run from which the Red could never recover.
The loss at home is a tough blow to the Red, who had been on a two-game winning streak coming out of winter break. The squad will have to recover quickly for Saturday, when it travels to the Lions’ home turf in New York City for its second Ivy contest. According to Gray, the Red will be studying film tomorrow, working to fix the defensive lapses that occurred this weekend.
“Going on the road is no easy task,” he said. “We feel like we can expect the same thing out of them but they will see some adjustments from us, we just have to go out there and fix the little things.”
Original Author: Scott Chiusano