Columbia drops opener at No. 4 UConn 70-57
The last time Columbia faced the defending national champions,
the Lions won. That was some 64 years ago.
Columbia didn’t stage a repeat of their 1947 upset of Holy Cross
but played No. 4 Connecticut relatively tough before falling 70-57
on Friday night.
“We threatened a little bit,” coach Kyle Smith said. “There’s a
lot of stages to finally being able to win one of those.”
After trailing by as many as 18 points, the Lions cut the
deficit to nine in the final minute on a 3-pointer from Noruwa
Columbia’s rebounding prowess – it pulled down 20 offensive
rebounds and lost the overall rebounding battle only 43-41 – was a
big reason it was able to keep the game tight.
The Huskies’ size frustrated Columbia in other ways, however,
and Smith says it’s something he expected.
“They’re long everywhere. I knew it’d be hard to make baskets,
especially around the rim. I knew we’d have to make a lot of 3s to
compete,” said Smith, whose team hit 9 of 31 from behind the arc.
“We made nine but we probably have to make 15 or something to get
that done. I’m surprised we didn’t take more, to be honest.”
Agho, who led the Ivy League in scoring last season, had 16
points but was only 6 of 23 from the field. The 6-foot-3 Agho was
guarded mostly by 6-8 UConn small forward Roscoe Smith and was
apparently frustrated by Smith’s size.
“I think I didn’t do a good job of trying to put the ball in the
basket and if they block it, they block it. I think a lot of it was
trying not to get blocked or trying to draw contact, stuff like
that,” said Agho, who missed his first four shots and seven of his
first eight. “To their credit, that’s because they play good
Jeremy Lamb scored a career-high 30 points, and Napier added 21
to lead No. 4 Connecticut, which returned four starters from last
year’s championship team, but lost its leader, Kemba Walker to the
Lamb hit 11 of 17 shots and was 5 of 8 from behind the arc.
“I’m not trying to be Kemba,” he said. “This is a different
team. This is a whole new team. I think I have to score a little
more, but like I said there are a lot of weapons.”
Napier was the other big weapon on Friday adding eight assists
and six rebounds for the Huskies, who led 37-22 at halftime in the
season opener for both teams.
“Guys like myself and Jeremy, we had to actually score a lot of
points today, but hopefully it’s not going to be like that all the
time,” Napier said. “I told my guys, I don’t like scoring a lot of
points. I love passing the ball.”
Napier found very few people to pass to in the post. Tyler
Olander had eight rebounds and eight points. But Alex Oriakhi had
two points and highly touted freshman Andre Drummond did not score
and had four rebounds.
UConn had 13 blocked shots, but being outrebounded 20-10 on the
offensive boards, drew the wrath of coach Jim Calhoun.
“We don’t have anybody in the frontcourt that can play right
now, or is ready to play right now, except for Tyler, who
understands how to play basketball,” he said.
The victory extended the Huskies’ winning streak to 12 games,
after the 11-0 run that gave UConn the NCAA title in April.
Lamb took Columbia’s Matt Johnson 1-on-1 at the end of the first
half, stepping away on an ankle-breaking move and launching a
3-pointer that made it 37-22. UConn held the Lions to 29 percent
shooting, 24 percent in the first half.
Lamb put the exclamation point on the game by drawing a foul
with a baseline drive and dunk that made it 56-38 after the free
The Lions used their rebounding and 3-pointers to keep it
relatively close late. A basket by Mark Cisco made it 63-53 with 3
Agho had four 3-pointers. Blaise Staab, the cousin of former
UConn player Jake Voskuhl, added 11 points and Brian Barbour had
“Columbia worked like crazy,” Calhoun said. “We were very
Connecticut improved to 22-4 in season openers under Calhoun,
and 68-4 against non-conference opponents at Gampel Pavilion.
Connecticut is 7-2 against the Lions, a team it had not played
since Dec. 28, 1983, when the Huskies won 85-60. Referee Tim
Higgins officiated both that game and UConn’s win on Friday.
Columbia hasn’t beaten UConn since 1976.
The Huskies unveiled their national championship plaque before
the game, but had a few problems celebrating. The arena’s video
boards didn’t work for the first half, forcing the postponement of
the team’s new opening montage until halftime. And during the
unveiling ceremony for the championship plaque, the staff had
trouble reaching the rope that held the drape. That problem was
solved by the UConn mascot, who lifted a small child up to grab it
and complete the unveiling.
UConn’s big men, Calhoun said “had as difficult a time
rebounding as we did unveiling that banner.”
“We are not the No. 4 team in the country at this point,” he
said. “Not even near it.”