With health issues keeping senior point guard Brian Barbour out of the lineup and limiting his minutes over the last couple of weeks, the men’s basketball team struggled to maintain control of the ball and get open looks. Two weeks ago, it committed 19 turnovers both at Brown and at Yale, which are last and fourth in the league, respectively, at forcing turnovers.
After receiving intravenous therapy five times on Thursday, Barbour said his coaches were not completely comfortable giving him regular minutes on Friday. He played nine minutes and Columbia lost by nineteen to Princeton—its second consecutive loss by that margin or more. After the game, head coach Kyle Smith said he hoped Barbour would feel better the next day for a game against Penn.
“He means so much to us, leadership-wise, competitive spirit,” he said. “There’s always going to be an adjustment if a guy’s down like that.”
Barbour did play against Penn, and Columbia’s fortunes changed drastically.
During his return to significant minutes, Barbour had 12 points and two assists in 28 minutes of action—all right around personal season averages or below—but his impact went well beyond his row in the box score.
Freshman guard Grant Mullins, who had not made a three-pointer during a game in three weeks, knocked down two, and credited Barbour’s assistance on the first as helping him get into a shooting rhythm.
“When Barbour was out, I would have to try to get shots on my own, dribbling and stuff, but when he’s out there, either of us can bring it up the court,” Mullins said.
Seven of Columbia’s 13 first-half field goals were assisted—two each from Barbour, sophomore forward Alex Rosenberg , and freshman guard Maodo Lo , and one from Mullins—as the team shot 52 percent from the field, its best single-half shooting performance since its Ivy-opening win at Cornell.
Moreover, all but four of Columbia’s first-half attempts were from either beyond the arc or in the immediate vicinity of the basket—the two most effective scoring areas on the court.
“I think it was good because I had a lot of energy,” Barbour said after the win over Penn. “I was able to contribute and it felt good being back out there and kind of running the team and getting a win.”
And with Columbia struggling to hit shots in the second half, making only two of its 20 attempts, Barbour was there to hit free throws. Barbour—who has ranked in the top 25 in the country in free throw percentage for the last three years—made seven of eight attempts from the charity stripe in the final eight minutes, including three of four after Penn was called for back-to-back technical fouls.
“He’s giving everything he has, and I say we’re going to go down or we’re going to win with this guy,” Smith said after the win over Penn. “He’s just earned that opportunity to try and make it happen.”
This weekend, Columbia has a chance to avenge a pair of road losses of two weeks ago against Brown and Yale. Unlike those previous games, however, it appears Barbour will be healthy.