Men's Basketball Preview: Columbia

Published by David Freed on February 28, 2015 at 9:50AM
Columbia Callback

The Crimson look to bounce back after falling to Cornell on Friday.

After winning eight straight games to grab sole control of the Ivy League, the Harvard men’s basketball team (19-6, 9-2 Ivy) laid an egg Friday Night in Ithaca. The Crimson shot just 25 percent from the floor and 61 percent from the free throw line, with its top three players combining to make just 13 of 43 shots from the floor. Harvard will look to earn a split on the Gentleman’s C’s road trip when it visits Columbia (13-12, 5-6). Below, The Back Page takes a look at the three main things to keep your eye on as Harvard visits Levein Gymnasium.

Playing For the Trophy: Arguably the two leading Ivy League Player of the Year candidates will square off Saturday night. Harvard senior wing Wesley Saunders, the reigning ILPOY, missed 15 of his 21 shots last night. He finished with nice round totals of 19 points and 11 rebounds—including a personal 6-2 run to bring Harvard within four—but was outshined by Cornell senior forward Shonn Miller (24 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks). Columbia junior guard Maodo Lo averaged 26.5 points a week ago in sweeping Brown and Yale, but similarly came down to earth in a surprising 84-71 loss to Dartmouth, making just four of 13 shots with four turnovers and zero assists.

Lo got the better of Saunders in the last meeting, notching a game-high 22 points and adding four assists and six rebounds against just one turnover. However, Harvard got the last laugh with the win, which Lo (and Columbia) will surely remember.  

Muted Guns: Early in conference play, junior wing Agunwa Okolie was the X-factor for the Crimson, scoring in double digits in three consecutive games after not doing so all season. One of Harvard’s best perimeter defenders, Okolie made his mark offensively with smart off-the-ball cuts and tough rebounding inside. Over the last three games, however, the junior has all but disappeared, scoring just one combined point and missing all seven of his shots. If Okolie cannot provide offense, Harvard’s starting five struggles to find enough spacing and defenses clog up the lane, making the game significantly harder for Saunders and co-captain Steve Moundou-Missi.

Sophomore Slumping: Okolie is not the only Harvard starter struggling to score. In the case of sophomore forward Zena Edosomwan, however, it is largely a battle to stay on the court. Since scoring 13 points against Bryant on Jan. 20, Edosomwan has not had more than seven. Not coincidentally, he has played more than 20 minutes just four times in the stretch, committing three or more fouls six times. He had three more fouls, to go along with two turnovers, in his nine minutes of playing time Friday night. The Crimson need more out of its sophomore big man Saturday against the versatile Columbia front line, headed up by burly 6’11” Cory Osetkowski.