On a play most basketball practice constantly, Columbia University’s Grant Mullins passed a bullet into the chest of Peter Barba who quickly threw a sharp lob to the left corner arc where Luke Petrasek awaited a chance to win the game with about seven seconds remaining in regulation.
With his team down two, 71-70, Petrasek hoisted his 6 foot 10 inch frame over Manhattan College’s Zane Waterman — scored a career high 22 points — for an attempted 3-pointer. Swish. He gestures a modest fist-pump to himself and points to his teammates as he runs back on defense.
On the other end, Manhattan’s Tyler Wilson brings it up court frantically as the clock whittles down from five seconds. He shoots a pass down-low to a triple-teamed Rich Williams, who tries to draw the foul at first, but when he doesn’t get the call he tries to bank a layup off the glass to no avail.
When the buzzer went off Columbia found itself back over the .500 mark at 6-5 with the, 72-71, win over the now 1-6 Manhattan.
“Would you rather come out of the gates, and be 9-0? Yeah, if you can sustain that,” Steve Masiello, Manhattan’s head coach, said. “But I also don’t want fools gold, so I also have no problem coming out and taking a couple Ls and getting better when it matters.
“Does it matter if you go 20-0 and you lose the [Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference] tournament? What does it matter? I’m not subscribing to the norm here, I never have. Doesn’t mean I like losing. I hate losing. … I don’t want to lose but at the end of the day it comes down to three nights in Albany this year. … If I lose in the semis, ask me how I feel then.”
He said his game plan tonight was to give up the middle and to take away the 3-pointer, which didn’t work in the end. But that he did, however, like the energy Williams was able to bring off the bench — recorded his first career double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds; RaShawn Stores’ being out there, who introduced a slower tempo and facilitation to the game; Ak Ojo’s defense; and Samson Akilo playing eight minutes. Masiello said he’d like to see the latter increase to 12, at some point.
Problem is lack of depth due to injuries, as has been the story throughout the first seven games of the ’15-’16 road to a third-straight MAAC title. Zavier Turner, Samson Usilo, Calvin Crawford and Matt Maloney were all undressed.
“We defended tonight the way I’m used to us defending,” Masiello said, “Unfortunately though, and this is my dilemma that I lose sleep and that’s why I have circles and grays and bald spots already, is because we didn’t press tonight. That’s not my brand. We pressed the last three minutes, [so] we basically had to play half-court basketball tonight. The whole night. That’s because of the lack of numbers, bodies and depth that we don’t have. But I like the way we defended in the half-court.”
“The schedule has been a little tough on us,” Kyle Smith, Columbia’s head coach, said. “We’ve only had one practice, I’d say one full practice since we started playing games. … Hopefully we’re building something. Coach Masiello has had teams where they’ve had slow starts and they’ve come back and won the MAAC, so they have a culture of playing hard. This was a good environment for us, and hopefully being able to beat a team like that on their floor. That’s the most important thing going forward.”
Masiello was right when he said “we defended tonight.” Manhattan’s staple defense held Columbia to zero 3-pointers in the first-half of play but then went on to allow four in the second. Manhattan also held Columbia to only a 39 percent field-goal percentage. That number spiked to 52 percent in the second-half.
“It was rough. It was very physical. A lot of plays I thought were maybe a little too physical,” Petrasek, who scored three of 26 points on his game-winning 3-pointer, said. “The refs let things go, but you could just feel on defense getting to the end of the game– we were all talking, in it. It was a good feeling on defense. It felt like we were locking up. And on offense they were giving us good looks, great looks actually. It went well for us.”
For more photos of Columbia-Manhattan, click here.