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Sports | Feb. 27 2:15 pm EST
word power

Learn to talk baseball

File photo

The low tonight is a frosty seven degrees (50 please come back!), and while you’re curling up with a blanket to finish watching Frank Underwood conquer the world, Columbia’s defending Ivy League Champion baseball team is heading down to Tampa to begin its season on Friday.

Hopefully, you were paying attention in that last sentence because yes, the Light Blue is a perennial contender in the Ancient Eight. And with three of its four pitchers in the starting rotation back, there is plenty of reason for optimism for this season, which begins on Friday against the University of South Florida.

But before we get there, if you’re the least bit familiar with baseball then you probably know there’s a lot of jargon that goes along with America’s favorite pastime. If you’d like to pick up this great game over the next few months, here are some terms to get you started. And be sure to read Spectator’s baseball season preview either online or in print tomorrow.

Beginner

“Ace” — A team’s best pitcher.

“Diamond” — Another name for the baseball field.

“The Dish” — A fancy term for home plate.

“Extra Bases” — A hit goes for extra bases anytime it’s better than a single. A double, triple, and home run all count for extra-base hits.

“Go Deep” / “Go Yard” — A synonym for hitting a home run.

“K” — Basic synonym for striking out. A “Backwards K” (which is almost never written out like that…) means the batter struck out looking.

“Uncle Charlie” — A fancy name for a curveball. More »

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Sports | Feb. 27 11:00 am EST
lions and lady luck

Men’s basketball unlucky no more

Youjin Jenny Jang / Senior Staff Photographer

To loosely paraphrase from those familiar with Columbia basketball: The Light Blue chokes in crunch time. The story started in the Spring of 2012 and, two years later, is still going strong.

But Friday’s victory over Brown should bring our attention to a surprising development: The Lions have been much better in close games this season than their reputation would suggest.

(For the sake of clarity, let’s say a “close game” was decided by five points or fewer, or went to overtime.)

Muneeb Alam, one of our sports editors, wrote about this very topic the other day. As he explains, men’s basketball head coach Kyle Smith attributes the improved late-game results to tangible goals set in the offseason, like better conditioning.

Sure, fatigue can be a determining factor at the end of games. Basketball, after all, is a physical battle for 40 minutes. Experience is crucial as well. Every coach would argue that, regardless of the level of basketball being discussed. But both proper conditioning and experience, in reality, are minor explanations for why Columbia has improved so significantly.

The key starts with being luckier or, in the case of the Lions, being less unlucky. More »

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Sports | Feb. 22 1:07 pm EST
ivy championships

Women’s swimming—Ivies day 2 recap

Deniz Rosenberger / Staff Photographer

The fight for the championship title looks to be another two-horse race this year as Princeton and Harvard continue to distance themselves from the rest of the pack. After the second day, Columbia remains in fourth place. Here’s the lowdown on the results from yesterday, what they mean for the team, and where the main action’s at today.

As always, you can follow the live results here and watch for a fee on the Ivy League Digital Network.

1. Closing the gap
From the outset, Columbia knew Yale would be its chief rival for third, and at the start of the day Yale, had over a hundred points’ advantage on the Lions. Columbia managed to make up roughly 30 of those points on Friday to shrink the Bulldogs’ lead, but whether it was enough remains to be seen. Given that many of its go-to events were yesterday, the Light Blue had certainly hoped to do better and were undercut by some close finishes and disappointing swims. More »

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Sports | Feb. 21 10:33 am EST
ivy championships

Women’s swimming—Ivies Day 1 recap

Deniz Rosenberger / Staff Photographer

After the first day of the women’s swimming Ivy League Championships, Columbia trails leader Princeton by nearly 200 points and holds only a one-point advantage over Penn.

The Lions shouldn’t have trouble shaking the Quakers—it’s Yale that will be the Light Blue’s primary competition for the next two days, as the two teams enter their annual head-to-head for heavily (and regularly) contested third place.

Here are some highlights from yesterday’s competition and storylines to watch on the final two days.

1. Kluge’s second NCAA bid?
Senior co-captain Alena Kluge certainly made her presence known. Her pool-record time of 1:58.74 in the 200-yard individual medley was nearly two seconds clear of the second-place finisher and cleared the NCAA B-cut, giving her a provisional qualifying time for the Division I National Championships.

Last year, it took a 1:58.51 to be invited and that time will likely only get faster this year. But Kluge has yet to swim her specialty, the 400-yard individual medley, which is later today. The 400 IM got her a NCAAs invite last year.

Admittedly, swimming fast, whatever the stroke, is no easy feat, but freestyle is such a vital part of the championship that the point deficit there is probably the Lions’ biggest worry. Yesterday, Columbia took fifth in the 200-yard free relay, 15th and 18th in the 500, and 10th and 16th in the 50, while top opponents Harvard, Yale, and Princeton flooded the higher-level heats. More »

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Sports | Feb. 20 11:33 am EST
from downtown

Enter Meiko Lyles

Youjin Jenny Jang / Senior Staff Photographer

If you’re like me, your head is still spinning from the charging call against Alex Rosenberg Friday against Harvard. (This is a better look.)

(By the way: I think it should have been a ‘no call.’)

But, lost in Laurent Rivard’s Jedi mind control of the referees is the reemergence of Light Blue guard Meiko Lyles.

I mentioned last week that sophomore guard Grant Mullins’ injury could push the junior into a larger role with this Columbia squad. Well, only part of that prediction was correct.

While Mullins did return to action this past weekend, he only played 56 minutes between the Harvard and Dartmouth games—and 44 of those minutes came in the first game. In other words, Mullins is getting healthier but is still not 100 percent.

Meanwhile, Lyles is becoming a vital cog in the Lions’ backcourt rotation. In the past four contests, he has averaged close to 28 minutes per game—the same amount as junior forward Alex Rosenberg this season.
More »

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Sports | Feb. 14 3:33 pm EST
date with harvard

A Crimson Valentine’s Day

Wikimedia Commons

In case you were unaware, the Light Blue men’s basketball team hosts Harvard tonight. You may not think of Harvard and Columbia as sporting an athletic rivalry (unlike, say, Harvard and Yale or Penn and Princeton). But the two Ivies collide on the court/field/ice many times a year, and several recent meetings have been noteworthy.

More »

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Sports | Feb. 13 3:00 pm EST
get well soon

Mullins vital to men’s basketball

Kiera Wood / Senior Staff Photographer

Starting sophomore guard Grant Mullins left the Friday game in Princeton—which Columbia later won in a dramatic fashion—with what turned out to be a concussion. He missed Saturday’s game at Penn and is day-to-day going into this weekend’s games. Though the status of one of his best players is up in the air, head coach Kyle Smith thankfully hasn’t declared Mullins out for the season and gone on all Jim Mora or Denny Green on us.

(Okay, I couldn’t resist. Those coaching tirades are comedic gold.)

Last season Mullins was the primary wingman for leading scorer Brian Barbour. When Barbour graduated, it seemed Mullins would assume the role of the team’s top dog. That hasn’t exactly been the case. Instead, sophomore guard Maodo Lo and junior forward Alex Rosenberg have taken huge steps forward. (The latter, in particular, looks like he could be an All-Ivy player this season.)

But that doesn’t mean Mullins hasn’t been immensely valuable to the team so far—it just means that he’s flown under the radar compared to two of his teammates. Take a look below at his stat lines from the past two seasons:

Season Min/G PPG REB/G AST/G FG% 3FG% FT%
2012-13 27.0 9.3 3.1 1.5 41.7 37.4 86.9
2013-14 31.2 12.5 3.0 2.3 42.0 36.9 89.9

The columns, in order: season, minutes per game, points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, field-goal percentage, three-point field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage.

His numbers are steady or up across the board. And keep in mind that without Barbour, he has to create opportunities for himself and others more than he has in the past. More »

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Sports | Feb. 7 6:13 pm EST
Beyond the arc

Light Blue needs to hit its threes

Kiera Wood / Senior Staff Photographer

Ivy title hopes for the men’s basketball team are unfortunately getting swallowed down the drain after back-to-back losses at Yale and Brown last weekend.

Winning on the road is a tough task in Ivy play—to be fair, last weekend, road teams went 0-8. Home-court advantage really does matter in some cases. It may have played a significant role in the Lions’ losses to the Bulldogs and Bears last weekend—both teams with worse overall records than Columbia’s. The fact that Columbia has played consecutive road games for the first time since early November could only have made playing that much more difficult.

But home-away splits notwithstanding, over the past two years, a curious trend of scoring inconsistency (especially in conference play) has emerged in Columbia hoops, and I think it has to do with its reliance on the three.

More »

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Sports | Feb. 3 11:02 am EST
Super Bowl snoozer

Super Bowl: Top 10 moments

Wikimedia Commons

Well, it certainly wasn’t the most exciting Super Bowl ever. But Super Bowl XLVIII (that would be 48, for those of you who aren’t fluent in Roman numerals) still had some highlights. As a neutral football fan, here are my top 10.

1. Prop Bets

My favorites are easily “the numbers of Skittles pelted at Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch” and “whether Knowshon Moreno would cry during the national anthem.” (You may recall that he is the patron saint of shedding tears on national TV.)

2. The Safety

The first play from scrimmage of the Super Bowl. It would impossible to quantify the anxiety going through the minds of all 22 players on the field. But still, there have been, what, 47 of these Super Bowl things without a catastrophe of that magnitude?

More »

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Sports | Jan. 18 12:11 pm EST
Lions Ivy Opener

Men’s basketball columnist roundtable, Part I

Kiera Wood / Senior Staff Photographer

The men’s basketball team will begin its 14-game Ivy League campaign tonight against Cornell. Despite low expectations at the beginning of the season, the Lions have managed to turn some heads, and are currently sitting at an impressive 11-6. What’s the secret to their surprising success? Where do they stand in comparison to the other Ivies? Columnists Peter Andrews, Ryan Young, and Daniel Radov offer their thoughts on the Lions and the rest of the Ancient Eight.

Q: Columbia was picked to finished eighth in the preseason media poll. It’s certainly not looking that way anymore. What part of the Lions’ game has surprised you the most?

Peter: The defense—ranked in the top 30 in the country—has been really good. The Lions haven’t really been blown out once this year, and they haven’t lost a game they were “supposed” to win. I think that’s largely due to the consistent, stifling nature of the defense.

Ryan: The entire starting lineup—led lately by junior forward Alex Rosenberg—has played above expectations. I would expect teams as young as the Lions to be more volatile, but the contributions were spread out enough for them to be remarkably consistent in nonconference play.

Daniel: The balance. On a given night, three or four different players have a legitimate chance to lead the team in scoring. Sure, basketball games are not decided in the offensive end alone, but it’s impressive to watch a team with so many weapons. More »

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