Final Road Trip of the Men's Basketball Season Takes Columbia to Penn and Princeton
Courtesy: Columbia University Athletics/Herold Roy

NEW YORK – With four games to play, Columbia has plenty left to play for. With one win, the Lions would achieve the team’s third winning season in 28 years. With three wins, Columbia would have the team’s best record in three decades and the program’s first winning record in the Ivy League in 18 years. It will be a tall task for Columbia, which begins the final four games with Penn and Princeton on the road, two of the Ivy League’s top three teams.

Penn comes into the weekend at 5-4 in Ivy League play, winning two on the road last weekend at Brown and at Yale after the Lions dealt the Quakers a 75-62 at Levien Gymnasium on February 12. 

Meanwhile, Princeton lost its first Ivy League game of the season on Saturday at Brown, when the Bears captured a 75-65 victory, dropping Princeton's league record to 8-1.  The Tigers still remain a half game behind Harvard for first place in the league.

Both games can be heard on this weekend with Jerry Recco and Dalen Cuff behind the mic on Friday.  Lance Medow will join Cuff on the call for Saturday's game at Princeton.  Friday's game at Penn also will be broadcast live on The Comcast Network with Scott Graham and John Griffin calling the action.

Live stats for the games this weekend are also available, as are game notes.

Columbia has scored 70 or more points 13 times this season, averaging 70.6 points per game. When Columbia has scored 70 points or more, the Lions are 10-3. When Columbia allows fewer than 70 points, the Lions are 7-1.

In the latest NCAA rankings, Columbia is represented several times among the top 100 in the nation, out of the 336 Division I teams ranked. Stats are through Feb. 20.

Category Rank Actual
Turnovers Per Game   97th   12.7
Free Throw Percentage   96th 71.8
Rebound Margin 45th +4.3

Category Player Rank   Actual
Free Throw Percentage   Brian Barbour   7th 91.2
Assists Per Game Noruwa Agho 81st 4.5
Assist/Turnover Ratio Brian Barbour 88th 2.03

One of Kyle Smith’s keys to this season was taking care of the basketball and Columbia has done that, committing fewer turnovers than its opponents this season. The Lions’ top two distributors - Noruwa Agho and Brian Barbour - both carry outstanding assist-to-turnover ratios while averaging more than three helpers per game.

Columbia has won four of the last five games against Penn in a series that has seen a number of exciting finishes over the last two years. Columbia has won three straight against the Quakers, including the last two games at the Palestra. Last season, John Daniels made two free throws in the final seconds to help lift Columbia to a 66-62 victory over Penn on February 13, 2010.

Friday’s contest is the 225th game between Columbia and Princeton, marking the Lions’ most-played series with any opponent. Princeton has won three straight against the Lions and swept the season series in 2009-10, but over the previous four seasons, the teams had split the season series. The last time Columbia won at Jadwin Gym was February 13, 1993, a 71-69 Lions’ victory.

Columbia junior guard Noruwa Agho enters this weekend as the Ivy League’s second leading scorer at 15.8 points per game, is fifth in assists at 4.5 per game and tied for 10th in rebounding at 5.0 per game. Agho recently topped the 1,000 point mark for his career and currently ranks 16th on Columbia’s all-time scoring list with 1,087 career points. He has been named Ivy League Player of the Week three times already this season after earning the award three times during the 2009-10 season. Only a junior, Agho is one of six Columbia players ever to total 1,000 points, 300 rebounds and 200 assists in his career.

Player Points Rebounds   Assists
Craig Austin   1998-2002   1,491   417 205
Gary Raimondo   1995-99 1,320    542 236
Heyward Dotson   1967-70 1,266 420 237
Sean Couch 1983-87 1,208 368 247
Noruwa Agho 2008-pres. 1,087 331 208
Richie Gordon 1979-83 1,003 384 211

Sophomore guard Brian Barbour has emerged as one of the Ivy League’s top point guards in his first full season as a starter for the Lions. During the Ivy League slate, Barbour is averaging 14.2 points per game, which is fourth in the league. Barbour also has made 93.1 percent from the free throw line during Ivy League play and ranks seventh in the nation from the foul line.

Senior forward Asenso Ampim has come on strong over the last seven games for Columbia, averaging 12.0 points and 7.4 rebounds per game during that span. Ampim has posted two double-doubles during that stretch, including a 10-point, 10-rebound effort in Columbia’s 67-60 win vs. Dartmouth on February 18. Ampim ranks sixth in the Ivy League in rebounding at 6.2 per game and is fourth in the league in offensive rebounding at 2.1 per contest.

Columbia holds a +4.3 margin in rebounding, the best in the Ivy League. The Lions average 36.4 rebounds per game to 32.1 rebounds per game for its opponents. Columbia has outrebounded its opponent 16 times this season and outrebounded Dartmouth on Feb. 18 by a margin of 49-32 and 22-3 on the offensive glass.

Sophomore center Mark Cisco has come on strong recently after he was inserted into the starting lineup prior to Columbia’s game at Maine. Cisco is shooting 59.8 percent from the field, which would rank first in the Ivy League with the minimum amount of field goals. The 6-9 big man recently scored a career-high 17 points, grabbed eight rebounds and had three blocks on Feb. 5 at Yale.

Columbia rookie guard Steve Frankoski has scored in double figures nine times this season and leads the team with 41 three-point field goals. In the win at Dartmouth on January 29, Frankoski had a strong game with 13 points on three three-pointers and a number of moves to the basket. He also added four rebounds, a blocked shot and two steals in a strong all-around game.

First-year guard Meiko Lyles stepped into action at Cornell on January 22 in just his second collegiate game and played a huge role in the win, scoring 10 points in 16 minutes off the bench. Lyles followed that by scoring 14 points, a season high for the rookie, at Brown on Feb. 4.

Senior center Max Craig made a big impact in Columbia’s 75-62 win over Penn on February 12. The seven-footer scored nine points on four-of-five shooting, grabbed six rebounds and had an assist in 18 minutes of action off the bench.

Sophomore guard Dean Kowalski has provided a spark off the bench for Columbia over the last five games. In Columbia’s 75-62 win over Penn on Feb. 12, Kowalski had two assists and zero turnovers in 14 minutes, while providing strong defense on Penn’s talented backcourt combo of Zack Rosen and Miles Cartwright.

Despite missing the last five games due to injury, sophomore forward John Daniels had come on strong in recent weeks. In Columbia’s 66-45 win at Dartmouth, Daniels had one of his best games of the season with seven points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Against Brown on Feb. 4, Daniels notched a season high with nine points in just 18 minutes.

When opponents score 31 or fewer points in the first half, Columbia holds a 11-2 record. The Lions have led 14 times at halftime this season.