Tuesday, December 15, 2015

NCAA Basketball Doubleheader - December 14, 2015


I always enjoy weekday afternoon games when I am not working, but only baseball schedules them with any regularity. So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that the Columbia Lions men's basketball team would have a home game on Monday afternoon at 2, hosting defending NEC champion Robert Morris. To make things even more interesting, the defending MAAC champions Manhattan welcomed NEC runners-up St. Francis Brooklyn at 7 that evening. Both Manhattan and Robert Morris played as 16 seeds in the First Four back in March, with Robert Morris winning their game, giving them a first-round game against eventual champion Duke. Since then, both teams had lost several seniors to graduation and were suffering, having but a single win each.

Robert Morris Colonials 71 at Columbia Lions 78

I last visited Columbia's Levien Gymnasium in February, 2014 and it hasn't changed much since then. The main difference was that the crowd was much smaller and predominantly alumni as students are busy with final exams. As the game got underway, it was interesting to note the difference in styles - Columbia played man-to-man defense, while the Colonials played a much more active zone, often double teaming the ball handler. The Lions had trouble penetrating early, but it didn't matter because their outside shooting was excellent, led by senior Maodo Lo, who drained five straight treys as Columbia took a 37-27 lead at halftime.



The second half saw Robert Morris find some openings and improve their shooting, and as the clock ticked down, they slowly drew closer, making it 72-71 with 25 seconds left. They had to foul to stay alive, and Columbia made all 6 while the Colonials failed to do anything in the brief time they had the ball. The final is below.



The player to watch from this game is Lo, a German international who played in Eurobasket 2015 and was a teammate of Dirk Nowitzki among others. He finished with 26 points on 8 threes (a Levien gym record and a career high) and had a couple of big blocks and a key steal too. He was really the catalyst for the Lions, and although he won't make the NBA, he will be a professional in Europe next year.

St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers 60 at Manhattan Jaspers 71



The first game ended around 4, and it is about 30 minutes on the 1 train to the final stop at 242nd Street where the Manhattan campus resides, giving me a bit of time to explore the area. Which was quite useful. I was here back in February 2015, but I arrived late on that dark evening as I did not know the correct way to Draddy Gymnasium, which lies at the top of a hill without no signage whatsoever. So this time, I took my time and managed to get there just as the sun was setting, taking a couple of shots of the exterior of the building.



The inside has changed as well. First, the MAAC tournament champion banner has a new year added to it.



But more obvious is the new floor that was installed for this season. It is supposedly known as the Green Monster, a completely new term in the world of sports. Seriously, you couldn't come up with something different? The Jade Parquet? Courtreuse? Yeah, I know those shades of green don't match Manhattan's brand, but some originality would be appreciated.



The picture above might not capture the garishness completely as the seats here are not very steep, but the shot below does. Tough to play here I would think.



Anyway, this game was also poorly attended (614 fans), as students are actually studying! Most of those in attendance were faculty and alumni, and an engineering professor sat next to me and gave me the lowdown on the team. The Jaspers were just 1-7 on the year and were suffering from the injury bug, so only seven players dressed. St. Francis was not much better at 3-6 and as you would expect, the game wasn't very well played.



Manhattan scored the first 7 points of the tilt and took a 22-11 lead at the under-8 timeout. That early run was really the difference as the Terriers never came closer than 8 points, losing handily 71-60. Both teams committed 19 turnovers and 17 fouls, with the Jaspers victory due to their 56% shooting from the floor (including 8/13 from behind the arc). No player to watch from this one.



All-in-all, a fun day that is difficult to repeat as weekday afternoon game are so rare in the winter. The contests both lasted just under two hours, so the total time spent watching was about the same as a college football bowl game. And a lot more entertaining.

Next Up

My trip to Washimorelphia starts on Thursday! This term is now found throughout the Internet! Look for updates next week.

Best,

Sean

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