The men’s basketball team will take on Army Wednesday with a chance to move on from a hard-fought loss to Elon.
Last season, Columbia was never really able to bounce back from its loss to the Phoenix. After falling 70-69 on a last-second three on Dec. 22, the Light Blue showed a remarkable propensity for dropping tight contests, losing eight of its 14 Ivy games by six or fewer points. Fast forward to 2013, and the script looks remarkably similar after Sunday’s 68-65 overtime loss in Elon, N.C.
But according to head coach Kyle Smith, this year’s squad has already shown it can perform down the stretch in close games.
“We’re a different team,” Smith said, pointing to a 70-66 win over North Texas and a 65-60 win over Idaho. He also noted that it was a tough start rather than a second-half collapse that doomed the Lions last Sunday, when they allowed the Phoenix to open the game with a 15-0 run. The Light Blue (4-4) will need to execute better in the early going against the Black Knights (1-5).
“I think Army, they play hard,” Smith said. “They’re going to press. They’re actually—they play a little bit like Elon.”
On the Columbia side, junior forward Alex Rosenberg has really come on in the last few games.
Rosenberg had 19 points in the loss to Elon, including the game-tying three in the final second of regulation, and has posted double-digit scoring totals in each of the Lions’ last three games. Though he has not been a starter this season like he has in the past—he has not been at 100 percent health-wise, according to Smith—Rosenberg has still found ways to contribute.
“He’s really given us good lift off the bench, and just playing the way we want him,” Smith said. “I think it’s about three games in a row where he’s really been just locked in and competing.”
The Black Knights’ most potent weapon thus far this season has been guard Kyle Wilson. Wilson—the reigning Patriot League Rookie of the Year—leads his team in scoring, averaging 16.3 points per game.
Smith said that Wilson’s versatility makes him particularly dangerous.
“He can slash, he can pull up, he can get all the way to the basket, [and] he’s got good size,” Smith said. “He’s got the green light. He knows they count on him to give them 15, 16, 20. He gets it going and they have a better chance to win.”
Wilson does have one major weakness. Though his .941 free throw percentage is phenomenal, the Army sophomore has shot just .387 from the floor this season, including an unimpressive .256 from three-point range.
In addition to Rosenberg, sophomore guards Grant Mullins and Maodo Lo are poised to be key contributors for the Light Blue. Headlining a deep backcourt, Lo and Mullins have been Columbia’s top two scorers thus far, averaging 12.5 and 11.4 points per game.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at Levien Gymnasium.