VILLANOVA, PA. 11/20/2012 – Conventional wisdom had the Villanova Wildcats as the favorite. The Columbia Lions had other ideas. The Lions had not won against the Wildcats since 1969. Villanova was coming off games against Purdue and Alabama. Columbia was not awed. Executing their game plan, making threes and free throws Columbia defeated Villanova 75 – 57 at the Pavilion. Columbia got a lead, got turnovers, and that spelled trouble for Villanova.
“We knew going into this game that this was a team you did not want to get behind on,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “They jumped on Furman early. They moved the ball, moved the ball, made free throws and threes. We got ourselves in that position. You get down on these guys, they’re going to run the clock down and did a great job of it. Turnovers and missed free throws killed us early and made it hard to come back against a team like that.”
The Wildcats took the early lead, but the Lions answered leading by as many as 5 points in the early going. Villanova came back to take a 21 – 19 lead on a jumper by Junior guard James Bell. However, Columbia answered again reeling off 7 of the next 8 points to take a 26 – 22 lead into halftime. Villanova did not help their cause by turning the ball over 12 times in the half, 9 on steals, and the Wildcats made only 3 of 9 free throw attempts.
The Columbia strategy was to combat the Villanova inside game with three-point shots. Columbia made just 4 of 17 (23.5%) in the first half, but connected on two early in the second half to take a 36 – 26 lead at the 14:45 mark. The Lion lead expanded to 44 – 33 with 9:51 on the clock.
Villanova was getting the ball to the basket, turned up the defensive pressure, and the Columbia threes stopped falling. Columbia was starting to pile up fouls as well. The Villanova deficit shrunk to 46 – 41 with 8:29 to play. The momentum appeared to be on the side of Villanova. Momentum can be fickle, and went back to Columbia as guard Grant Mullins made back to back three-pointers to restore the lead to 11 at 57 – 46 with 4:26 remaining. The chances were there for Villanova, but Wright said his team did not take full advantage of the opportunities.
“We got it inside to Yarou, got it inside to Pinkston, but didn’t get much out of it,” said Wright. “We got it inside to Pinkston but missed the free throw. We weren’t getting much out of it. There were so many possessions where we got the ball inside and missed the free throw or turned the ball over. Eventually, they are going to make a run with those threes and free throws. So up ten or eight there is less pressure on them.
Columbia finished the game making 15 consecutive free throws from that point on. The Lions made 21 straight in the second half finishing the game making 26 of 30 free throw attempts.
“We didn’t come down and take a quick shot, and give them momentum,” said Columbia Coach Kyle Smith on how his team held off the Villanova charge. “We calmed ourselves down, ran a little offense. We stayed the course and made every free throw. We didn’t give it a chance to get tight.”
From the three-point line Columbia made 11 of 31, 7 of 14 in the second half. Guard Steve Frankowski was 5 of 10 from deep scoring 15 points. Fellow back court mate Brian Barbour was a perfect 12 for 12 from the free throw line, handed out 7 assists, and pulled down 8 rebounds. Forward Alex Rosenberg put in a game-high 21 points. Mullins had 14.
Villanova committed 16 turnovers that led to 23 Columbia points. The Wildcats went 16 for 28 from the free throw line (57.1%). Bell led the team in scoring with 13. Freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono had 11. Senior center Mouphtaou Yarou led Villanova in rebounding with 7.
“We knew they (Columbia) were a good team,” said Arcidiacono. “We got behind, and you can’t do that against a team like that who will make free throws and get the shots they want, and working the clock down. We had to play consistent defense for 28 to 30 seconds, and they were still getting wide open shots, so they just ground us down.”
Villanova drops to 3 – 2 on the season, and prepare for a Big Five game against LaSalle on Sunday.
Written By: Glenn Papazian