In the midst of its first losing skid of the year, the men’s basketball team (4-3) has a chance to get back on track against Bucknell (6-1) on Saturday. But in order to do that, Columbia will have to address getting into foul trouble and its uncharastically struggling defense.
In Wednesday’s 70-61 loss at LIU Brooklyn, Columbla allowed the Blackbirds to get on fire from the field in the second half and shoot over 60 percent, including 5-6 three-pointers. Although the Lions made an effort to limit LIU’s potent offense, the Blackbirds found ways to score with free throws and the treys.
“We kept them out of transition, but it wasn’t enough to keep them off the line,” Columbia head coach Kyle Smith said.
That sort of shooting points to the Light Blue zone defense not being as effective as it was earlier in the season. Both San Francisco and LIU were able to shoot over 50 percent from the field, while Columbia shot 35 percent in the first game and 40 percent in the second. Both opponents also shot 50 percent or better from beyond the arc.
Bucknell is another team that, so far, has thrived on converting at a much better rate than its opponents. This season, the Bison have shot 44 percent from the field while limiting opponents to just 36 percent. Bucknell’s advantage in field goal percentage, combined with a stellar free throw success rate of nearly 80 percent, has allowed the team to outscore opponents by an average of nearly 10 points per game.
But the Lions have also hurt themselves the last two games with fouls. They were called for 20 infractions in their loss at San Francisco and 23 more at LIU, including 18 in the second half alone.
The Blackbirds were only 1-3 from the free throw line in the first half, but 19-33 in the second, while the Lions were just 6-9 (all in the second half). Moreover, senior center Mark Cisco and freshman guard Grant Mullins, both of whom scored in double figures, got into foul trouble and eventually fouled out.
This game could be some indication of where the Lions stand in the Ancient Eight, as Bucknell defeated Dartmouth 62-49 in the team’s last outing. After the Big Green tied the game at 35, Bison center Mike Muscala recorded nine unanswered points to put his team up for good, and the Bison cruised the rest of the way. Muscala finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
The Lions will try to regain their winning ways in Levien Gymnasium starting at 7 p.m. on Sturday.