Karma - The cosmic principle according to which each person is rewarded or punished in one incarnation according to that person's deeds in the previous incarnation.
Whether you believe in karma or not, life sometimes does have a funny way of working out. A little less than a month ago it seemed like Columbia's season was over. Noruwa Agho, an All-Ivy League player, lay prone on the ground clutching his knee. The Lions were falling to 0-2 on the season and would be without their best player for the remainder of the season. Things definitely didn't look good.
Kyle Smith and Columbia could've given up right then. Luckily they didn't, because there were still 30 games left in the season. Instead, Smith changed his rotation a bit and attempted to get the freshmen more involved. Two more losses followed, but then things began to change.
On Saturday, November 26, the Lions took on Manhattan. Columbia was 0-4 and Manhattan was 3-2 at the time. The Jaspers were coming off a tricky two-game set in Colorado, and it just so happened that Manhattan's star guard George Beamon had tweaked something during that trip. Unexpectedly, he didn't play. Smith joked after the game that the NCAA had decided since Agho was out that Beamon shouldn't get to play. It was the banter of a head coach thrilled to get the monkey of a first win off his back.
Something funny happened during that game. Columbia found out that it liked winning. In fact, the Lions haven't lost since then, but not without some lucky breaks along the way.
The Lions trailed by 16 at halftime against Holy Cross. They couldn't put a ball in the ocean. Then the second half came around, and a furious comeback was mounted. It climaxed in a stunning series of plays that allowed Mark Cisco to hit two free throws with two seconds remaining to seal the victory for the Lions.
The toughest test of the entire run though was supposed to be on Saturday, December 10 against Long Island. The Blackbirds are the defending NEC champions and play an exciting up-tempo style of basketball. This was Columbia's last game before an 18-day break for exams, and the Lions' next chance to prove that the defensive identity that the team had formed after Agho's injury was for real.
The crowd inside Levien Gymnasium before the game was decidedly split between Long Island and Columbia supporters. Of course, the Lions' pep band, which always had an amusing rendition of something up its sleeve, was in attendance, but otherwise the student turnout was light. Apparently they wait for the Ivy League games to make an appearance.
Still, before tip-off another the Lions got another break. LIU's star forward, Julian Boyd, was going to miss the game due to a wrist injury. Yet another time that the key piece of an opponent's attack was going to miss the game against Columbia.
Columbia took advantage of it, too. While the final score, 63-53, doesn't make it seem like a defensive struggle, it certainly was. The game itself actually wasn't very pretty. In fact, Smith called it "muck ball." There were turnovers and missed opportunities galore, but at the end it didn't matter for the Lions. They'd won again.
And they'd done it with a rotation that wasn't anything like the one that had played in that fateful game. Freshman Alex Rosenberg started the game, and his classmates Corey Osetkowski and Noah Springwater came off the bench in key roles. John Daniels didn't play at all against Furman, but against the Blackbirds he pumped in 12 points in 24 minutes. Everything just seems to be clicking now.
There's a silly sportz reference when a team's star player goes out and the team becomes better than the sum of its parts. It's named after an old New York Knicks center. While the name is ridiculous, the idea behind it isn't. People need something to bond around. A moment, a cause, an action. Agho's injury was Columbia's call to action. After losing someone so integral to the attack the Lions were forced to rethink what they were doing; and they came out stronger because of it. It just makes you wonder, maybe there is some higher reason for it all.
at COLUMBIA 63, LONG ISLAND 53 12/10/2011
LONG ISLAND 5-5 (2-0) -- J. Brickman 2-5 2-4 6; M. Culpo 1-7 0-0 2; C. Garner 1-8 0-0 2; J. Olasewere 7-9 3-4 18; K. Onyechi 3-8 6-11 12; B. Thompson 0-2 0-0 0; A. Mayorga 3-7 4-4 11; B. Hucks 1-2 0-0 2; G. Martin 0-0 0-0 0; K. Joseph 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-49 15-23 53. COLUMBIA 7-4 (0-0) -- B. Barbour 4-9 2-2 11; M. Cisco 5-9 2-3 12; M. Lyles 2-8 2-4 6; J. Daniels 5-10 2-2 12; N. Springwater 1-3 1-2 4; A. Rosenberg 1-4 2-3 4; C. Crockett 0-3 0-0 0; S. Egee 2-5 0-0 6; C. Osetkowski 3-6 0-0 6; M. Johnson 1-3 0-0 2; B. Staab 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-60 11-16 63.
Three-point goals: LIU 2-13 (B. Hucks 0-1; A. Mayorga 1-3; M. Culpo 0-3; J. Olasewere 1-1; K. Joseph 0-1; B. Thompson 0-2; J. Brickman 0-2), COLU 4-19 (C. Crockett 0-3; S. Egee 2-4; M. Johnson 0-2; B. Barbour 1-3; M. Lyles 0-3; A. Rosenberg 0-1; N. Springwater 1-3); Rebounds: LIU 37 (B. Thompson 7), COLU 29 (M. Cisco 8); Assists: LIU 8 (J. Brickman 4), COLU 14 (B. Barbour 6); Total Fouls -- LIU 17, COLU 21; Fouled Out: LIU-J. Olasewere; COLU-None.