This was truly an odd game for the Wildcats, as they played some great defense early on, but couldn't get enough offense for it to matter. Starting with the television timeout at 11:38 of the first half, they held Columbia to 4-of-15 shooting for the remainder of the half, and yet Villanova found themselves down by four, 26-22, at the half. It may or may not have been because, in that same time frame, the Cats were 4-for-11 from the field, 2-for-7 from the free throw line, and also turned the ball over ten times.
Things didn't really get a lot better for Villanova in the second half, though they did draw close - only to watch Columbia end the game on an 18-9 run. Oh, and what's even more interesting is that the Lions had that run without even attempting a field goal. That's right, in the final 3:35 after the last TV timeout, they went 0-for-0 from the field, and 18-for-18 from the free throw line (during which time 'Nova committed 11 of the 19 fouls they were called for during the game).
Such an odd game. Freshman Grant Mullins went 4-4 from downtown and 2-2 on free throws in the last 11 minutes after going 0-3 and 0-0, respectively, up until that time. Villanova allowed guard Brian Barbour to rack up 10 points on free throws in that time after he shot 1-12 from the field (including 0-for-8 on threes). I could go on with the numbers, but I must digress. The more important question is: who is this Columbia team?
They are an up and comer, I would argue. They were widely considered the third-best team in the Ivy League coming into this season. Then the Harvard scandal happened, and they simply became "the team that might win the conference if Princeton screws it up somehow." They had three talented and experienced players in Marc Cisco, Brian Barbour, and Alex Rosenberg. The first two were fourth and second in our preseason Ivy League top ten, but they weren't seen as elite talents, nor was the rest of the team particularly deep.
Cisco was right around his pace from last season across the board coming into tonight, but he struggled mightily defending 'Nova's Mouphtaou Yarou and couldn't stay on the court because of foul trouble - lets hope that was an aberration. Rosenberg has been solid if unspectacular and has been a regular contributor, chipping in 21 points against the Wildcats (due, again, to free throws). Barbour had been his usual strong self coming into this game but, as i said, had a horrid shooting night and only totaled four points until the free-throw parade to end the game.
So where is the boost coming from, both tonight and going forward? From a couple of guards off the bench. Mullins might soon see his playing time increase at the rate he's going - it's a small sample size, but he is to date shooting 69% from the field and 60% from behind the arc for a cool 11 points per game (in only 22 minutes per game).
It's also coming from Steve Frankoski, who missed his entire sophomore season with injury, but has now returned to his "strong contribution off the bench" role and has already cracked 15 points for the second time on four games this season.
The Lions will need a better showing from Cisco down low than what he gave tonight, and for Barbour to not disappear on the offensive end, but with their new contributors in tow they appear to be a legitimate threat atop the Ivy League.