Columbia (0-3) fell 66-58 to American (2-2) on Saturday night. American senior forward Charles Hinkle scored 21 points and added seven rebounds, of which 16 points and five rebounds came in the second half. Junior guard Daniel Munoz added 14 points with five assists, and senior guard Troy Brewer had 13 points and three steals for the Eagles. Columbia junior guard Brian Barbour had a season-high 18 points, while junior center Mark Cisco had his first career double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds in the loss.
For the second straight game, the Lions stayed neck and neck with their opponents, leading for much of the game without ever being able to establish a large lead, but eventually fell behind for good late in the second half.
“We played a good 32, 32 solid minutes, then broke down a little for four, and then the final bit a little, too,” Barbour said.
The first half was largely even, with neither team able to establish a consistent offensive presence—thanks in part to aggressive defense. Of 31 total rebounds in the first half, 24 were taken by the defending team. That number was 45 of 56 including the second half. Despite the physical tone the teams set in front of their baskets in the opening period, they only committed six fouls between them, surrendering seven total foul shots.
“We always try to play through the post, and this week we made a special emphasis on passing it in,” Cisco said. “This week we worked a lot on post defense every single day and me keeping my hands up and not reaching in.”
Columbia won the tip-off and took a 2-0 lead on a Barbour jump shot but fell behind by as many as eight before pulling out to a 24-20 lead with 1:23 left in the half. The Eagles recovered in the closing stages of the half, and the teams went to the locker rooms tied at 26. Columbia committed eight turnovers in the half, compared to just four by American.
Hinkle was limited to two points early on after scoring a career-high 27 his last outing, an Eagle win over Florida Atlantic. Sophomore center Tony Wroblicky, after registering seven blocks in that game, finished the first half with no points, a rebound, and two fouls.
The second half featured more back-and-forth play, with neither team able to take a lead larger than four points until late in the game. The foul totals, however, began to climb up. By the time Hinkle was fouled on a three-point attempt with 7:28 to go, Columbia had five fouls, American four in the second half alone. Moreover, the Eagles’ shooting improved drastically to nearly 60 percent after shooting under 40 percent in the first half.
Columbia made only one field goal—a three-pointer by sophomore guard Meiko Lyles, who replaced injured All-Ivy senior guard Noruwa Agho in the starting lineup—in the final six minutes of the game. The dry spell resulted in a 52-48 lead turning into a 65-55 deficit with 25 seconds left.
“Down the stretch, I could have been a little better leader,” Barbour said.
“We didn’t get the ball where it needed to go,” Smith added.
Cisco’s final point, a free throw, came with five minutes left in the game and Columbia nursing a two-point lead.
Columbia head coach Kyle Smith thinks replicating these situations in practice will help the team handle similar situations of close games late second halves.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that haven’t been in those situations at all,” Smith said. “There’s really nothing like game experience.”
The game featured 11 ties and 11 lead changes. The Lions’ date with Furman last Monday featured two tied scores and a single lead change, while the University of Connecticut led from the first basket in Columbia’s season opener.
“It’s a process, we’re getting there slowly,” Barbour said.
“Every team we play, we’re going to go as hard as we can, and we’re going to start getting wins,” Cisco added.
The Lions return to action Tuesday night on Long Island at Stony Brook.