With senior guard Noruwa Agho out indefinitely with a knee injury he sustained against Furman on Nov. 14, the Columbia men’s basketball team has looked to sophomore guard Meiko Lyles to fill the shoes of the 2010-11 first-team all-Ivy veteran starter. Lyles has handled the challenge with poise and a deadly shot from the outside.
Lyles was named Ivy League Player of the Week on Monday after leading the Lions on four straight wins, shooting 19-24 from behind the arc and averaging 15.8 points per game in four starts this past week. During one stretch, Lyles sank 12 consecutive three-pointers.
“It feels great to go 4-0 [now six straight] after a slow start to the season,” Lyles said over the weekend. “As a team, we are starting to find chemistry on the court. I’m just glad that I could contribute to the team.”
After a solid 17-point performance in the Lions’ rout of Swarthmore last Monday, the 6-foot-3 Lyles went a combined 14-for-17 from three-point range at the Loyola Marymount Centennial Classic in Los Angeles this past weekend. Columbia won all three of its games in the tournament, against first-time rivals Loyola Marymount, North Texas, and La Sierra.
Among his many highlights this past week, Lyles earned Player of the Game honors against North Texas on Saturday, shooting 5-for-5 from behind the arc for a total of 18 points and pulling in four rebounds in the Lions’ 72-57 victory. Lyles scored four of his five three-pointers in the first half, the first two coming within three minutes after tip-off, helping the Lions to an early lead from which North Texas never recovered.
Sophomore guard Van Green said that Lyles’ recent success is a tribute to his hard work on the court.
“I believe Meiko has always been a great player, and we knew he would step up,” Green said. “He’s a great offensive player who takes extra shots and really puts in the time. We have a lot of faith in Meiko because he is always trying to be a great team player.”
While the team feels the loss of Agho’s leadership and offensive prowess on the court, Lyles has put up the numbers of a team leader this past week. He has showed that while the Lions miss Agho’s contributions, they continue in solid form as the season progresses.
Head coach Kyle Smith certainly took note of Lyles’ leadership this past week and remarked that Lyles’ success is due to the consistency of his efforts on the court.
“He doesn’t dazzle you with his flashy play, but he’s tough,” Smith said. “He doesn’t make many mistakes at either end, and he’ll take a big shot. And he’s always maintained a good attitude. He’s got some good leadership skills too.”
Lyles’ recent success this season could have easily eluded him, as an offseason foot injury kept him off the court for the entire summer through the first week of November. Lyles attributes his recovery, as well as his impressive shooting percentage, to his teammates and coaches.
“My teammates are finding me in good spots” on the court, Lyles said. “Especially our point guard Brian Barbour, who is doing a great job. Our success is a tribute to my teammates.”
Lyles’ performance over the past five games has shown that not only has he regained his form since his injury, but also that his shooting will prove to be an increasingly important weapon for the Lions in their hunt for the Ivy League title. Green sees the potential for Lyles to continue the shooting streak this season.
“I believe the sky is the limit for Meiko if he keeps working hard,” Green said.
With a stunning win Tuesday night against Holy Cross, in which Columbia came back from a 16-point deficit at halftime to win 46-45 in the game’s final seconds, the red-hot Lions have stretched their win streak to six games.