In the end Columbia just let Loyola (MD) hang on for one play too long.
Eric Laster hadn’t hit a single shot all game when his jumper off a loose ball went up with 0.2 seconds remaining, but the try was true and the Greyhounds escaped Levien Gymnasium with a 64-62 victory Tuesday.
It was a harsh result, but the Lions deserved their fate. Kyle Smith’s team had only gotten to that situation by coming back to tie the game after being down nine with 1:50 remaining. The mad scramble during the final two minutes stood in stark contrast to the lethargy the Lions played with throughout most of the game.
“We’re playing really tight, really tentative,” Columbia head coach Kyle Smith said.
Maodo Lo tried to save Columbia. His wicked crossovers left many a Greyhound defender in his wake and allowed Lo to get to the rim. He scored 22 points as he shot 7-15 overall and 5-8 on two-point attempts. Unfortunately, he got little help.
Freshman Kyle Castlin scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds, but gave up easy baskets at times defensively. Franz Rassman (16 points) and Nick Gorski (11 points) took advantage of poor interior defense from Columbia. They were helped out by Tyler Hubbard (12 points) and freshman Andre Walker (14 points) in the backcourt.
Other the other hand, Columbia once again struggled to find any other options beyond Lo and Castlin. Cory Osetkowski scored six early points, but was largely ineffective for the rest of the game. The Lions’ senior center finished with only nine points in 28 minutes.
“He needs to be,” Smith said about Osetkowksi being Columbia’s third option on offense. “We need him. We need that third guy. … It would’ve been nice to see. We wanted to pump it inside.”
Other scoring options were just as ineffective. Jeff Coby played only 10 minutes due to foul trouble and Steve Frankoski struggled from the field, going 3-9 for seven points.
Columbia had struggled offensively on other nights during the early part of the season, but Tuesday the defense also let the Lions down. The Greyhounds shot 47.9% from the field, including 5-10 from three. Loyola also managed to grab 10 offensive rebounds.
“The way we came up with all the wins was through defense,” Lo said about Columbia’s four victories early in the season. “We didn’t play well today on the defensive end.”
Smith was particularly frustrated by the defense late in possessions.
“I know in my head they got at least 10 points late in the shot clock,” Smith said. “That was dissapointing. End of clock fouled twice and gave up two threes and then the last play.”
Every possession the Greyhounds finished put more pressure on the Lions, who played timidly throughout. The moment seemed bigger than a number of Columbia’s front court players, including sophomores Coby, Chris McComber (0-4, two turnovers in 23 minutes), and Connor Voss.
The timid play early left the Lions fighting for everything down the stretch. It made one unlucky bounce of the basketball mean so much. Lo rejected Walker on the Greyhounds’ first attempt to go for the win, but Lo couldn’t corral the loose ball as it hung in the air and it fell into Laster’s hands as time was expiring.
“All you think is ‘The ball is in the air, try to get it,'” Lo said. “There was not enough urgency for all of us. I think we could’ve gotten the ball.”
The shot fell and Columbia suffered a difficult home loss to a young team not even expected to compete in the Patriot League this season. The Lions have a number of issues to fix before Ivy League play begins. Considering the lack of options offensively the defense has to be stifling every night. Smith also still needs to find a reliable third option — the return of either Luke Petrasek or Grant Mullins from injury would probably help the cause. Columbia will get another shot to answer those questions against Bucknell Saturday night at Levien. They’ll know better than to let the game down to the final possession again.