First-year head coach Kyle Smith reached a big milestone this past weekend when his team defeated American 64-62 for its first road win of the season. The Lions (3-3) will look to make it two in a row when they take on Bucknell in Lewisburg, Pa., on Wednesday.
“As a coach, one of your goals is to try and get a road win early—and it’s difficult,” Smith said on Monday. “I was really pleased.”
The come-from-behind win over the Eagles was a big victory for the Lions since it showed that they could win outside the friendly confines of Levien Gymnasium. The Light Blue has had only two home games so far this season, and all three of its losses have come on the road.
“I looked at the schedule when I got the job and I saw five out of the first seven were on the road—I wasn’t too tickled about that,” Smith said. “But to be 3-3, there’s some positives to be gleaned.”
One area where Columbia has really excelled is rebounding. The Lions lead the Ivy League with a +6.8 rebounding margin, and they have performed particularly on the offensive glass, picking up 14.8 offensive boards per game—also good enough for first in the league.
Another positive the Light Blue can take away from this weekend’s win over American is that the team found a way to win without much help from star guard Noruwa Agho. Agho, who leads the team with 18.3 points per game, played only 18 minutes against the Eagles, scoring just five points.
“He got in foul trouble and struggled a little bit,” Smith said of Agho. “That was great for us—that we could play well when he was in foul trouble. That should, going forward, give us confidence.”
That confidence will be crucial tonight when the Lions face the Bison. Smith emphasized that the team’s attitude is the most important factor in keeping its win streak alive.
“It’s not so much Xs and Os, I just want to keep us together as a team,” Smith said.
Bucknell (2-6) will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak against Columbia, having dropped games to James Madison, Wagner, and Ivy foe Princeton. On Nov. 23, the Bison fell 66-55 to the Tigers, who are predicted to win the Ancient Eight this season. In the loss, Bucknell senior guard/forward G.W. Boon led all scorers with 17 points. Boon, who often comes off the bench, could prove to be a challenging defensive matchup.
“They can go downsize at the four [with Boon], which is the same problem American gave us,” Smith said. “He’s smaller, quicker, shoots the three really well, so that’s a concern.”
But the Lions’ main concern when they take the court tonight will be 6-foot-11 sophomore forward Mike Muscala. He leads the Bison with 14.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Though he only played 18 minutes against American, it is likely that senior center Max Craig will be put on Muscala for most of the night.
“I think Max can give him some problems because his strength and size won’t give him low-post position,” Smith said. “Hopefully we can keep Max out there long enough to do that—he’s a good post defender.”
If Craig can contain Muscala, the Lions could pick up their second straight road win and third straight victory over a Patriot League squad.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at Bucknell’s Sojka Pavillion