With one half of its season in the books, Columbia men's basketball is set to embark the always-grueling Ivy League schedule this weekend when they travel to Cornell on Jan. 19. The Lions early season saw several measures of team and individual success that they will look to use as stepping stones to make a mark in the Ancient Eight.
Columbia has found a variety of ways to win games this season from playing strong defense, knocking down three's or coming from behind, and head into Ivy League play with an 8-6 overall record.
"We feel pretty good heading into league play," head coach Kyle Smith said. "We need to start putting full games together. With our first-years, we're trying to prepare them for league play. The intensity goes up and every game is so important."
Individually, Smith has been very happy with his guard play. The Lions are committing just 10.6 turnovers per game, which ranks as the ninth fewest in the nation and rank 33rd in assist/turnover ratio.
"Our guard play and ball handling have been exceptional," said Smith. "I think Grant Mullins has been good and Steve Frankoski has come on as of late. Of course, Brian Barbour has played really well too."
Barbour became the 25th player to score 1,000 career points at Columbia on Dec. 9 at American, and has been a model leader for the Lions, averaging 13.4 points and 5.1 assists per contest. Mullins has twice been named Ivy League Rookie of the Week, is second on the team in scoring at 11.5 points, and helps out Barbour by sharing some of the ball-handling duties. Frankoski's ability to stretch out defenses has been huge for the Lions, and the sharpshooter is playing his best going into conference play, posting double-figure points in his last five games while shooting 57 percent from downtown during that span.
Columbia will continue to look for more help from its frontcourt moving forward, and with an 11-day layoff between games, the Lions' bigs have had an opportunity to rest some nagging bumps and bruises that plague many teams at this point in the season.
"We have been playing a little bit of a smaller lineup lately, but we need to get a little more out of Mark and Cory (Osetkowski)," Smith stated. "A little bit of that is they've been dinged up. Cory is playing with his left arm all bandaged up, but he shows up to practice every day. If we're going to do well in Ivy League play, we're going to need more contributions from those guys."
Winning on the road in Ivy League play is no easy task, but with another week before classes begin, the Lions have been taking advantage of extra practice and preparation time before their showdown with the Big Red on Saturday.
"We have to take care of the ball," said Smith. "There's so much pressure and intensity in that first game of the year. They (Cornell) go after the ball and they are quicker than us. So if we keep them in front of us (defensively) it will give us a chance. I think on the road, if you throw the ball away that creates great offense for them. Mark (Cisco) played well against them in both games and hopefully that will continue because we need that inside play."
Fans can catch all of the action live on the NBC Sports Network. Randy Moss and Dalen Cuff ('06 CC) will have the call. Coverage begins at 3:00 p.m.