The men’s basketball team (5-4) took a double-digit lead early on in Wednesday’s game and never looked back, defeating the visiting Army (1-6) 81-64.
After the Black Knights opened the scoring with a three, sophomore guard Grant Mullins knocked down a jumper. On Columbia’s next possession, first-year forward Luke Petrasek received the ball on the right wing late in the shot clock, pump-faked a three and got his defender to bite, and drove in for a two-handed slam, setting off an 10-0 run for the Light Blue.
“The coaches got us so comfortable in our offense that we don’t really need to rush anything,” Mullins said. “Every guy can make a play near the end.”
The Lions ran into some defensive issues in the middle of the half, allowing Army to get good looks from the paint and cut its deficit from 12 to six. But the Light Blue made its shots for most of the game, and a trey from Petrasek and a layup from sophomore guard Maodo Lo—off a slick pass from Petrasek—pushed Columbia’s lead to a half-high of 14 with 1:23 to go.
The Lions passed the ball effectively for much of the game, registering a season-high 20 assists after coming into the game averaging fewer than 10 per contest.
“I thought we played a really unselfish game as a whole team,” Mullins said. “Lo had seven assists and other guys were really driving and kicking out.”
Those kick-outs frequently ended up as threes—the Lions connected 13 times from beyond the arc in the game.
“Our offense is designed to take what they give us,” head coach Kyle Smith said. “They pressure full-court and we had to make them pay a little bit.”
For most of the second half, the teams traded baskets. Army was unable to pull closer than 13 despite shooting over 60 percent from the field, and Columbia was unable to break the game open despite a similar shooting performance of its own. But with just over five minutes left in the game, Mullins knocked down a three—one of his six on the night—to put Columbia up by 18, and a minute later, a trey from junior guard Meiko Lyles put the Lions up 19 after a layup from Army.
“It’s part of becoming good and growing, it’s making plays,” Smith said.
Mullins led all scorers with a career-best 28 points, citing his aggressive playing as a main reason behind his stellar performance. Junior forward Alex Rosenberg also pitched in with 15 points.
Columbia next plays on Saturday at Bucknell.