What UVA Basketball fans need to know about Columbia

UVA basketballWake Forest needed a last-second jumper from Brandon Childress to beat Columbia, 65-63, in Winston-Salem last week.

So, there, that has your attention, as #9 UVA (2-0) prepares for Columbia (1-2) in a noon tip on Saturday at JPJ.

The Lions got their first win of the season on Wednesday, a 75-63 win over Binghamton.

Columbia was 10-18 in 2018-2019, 5-9 in the Ivy League, where the Lions were the #6 pick in the preseason media poll.

Mike Smith, a 5’11” senior point guard, is the spark to the Lions’ offense, averaging 21.3 points per game on 43.4 percent shooting this season, after averaging 15.8 points per game a year ago.

Smith is the only one of the four Lions who averaged double-digits in 2018-2019 to return.

He had 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting in the loss at Wake Forest last week.

Sophomore Ike Nweke, a 6’7” forward, is the second-leading scorer this season, at 9.0 points per game, after averaging 13.1 minutes per game as a reserve last season.

Jake Killingsworth, a 6’5” senior, had eight points and 10 rebounds in the loss at Wake. Killingsworth averaged 6.1 points in 24.9 minutes per game in 2018-2019.

Columbia is shooting 32.1 percent from three-point range this season, after shooting 36.2 percent a year ago.

Killingsworth is the Lions’ best shooter from deep – connecting on 7-of-21 this season, 33.3 percent, after shooting 39.5 percent in 2018-2019.

Reserve guard Jack Forrest, a 6’5” freshman, has been the best shooter percentage-wise from deep to this point this season, connecting on 5-of-10 from behind the arc this season.

Coach Jim Engles, in his fourth season at Columbia, after an eight-year stint at NJIT, which he took from a 1-30 record in his first season, in 2008-2009, to back-to-back 20-win seasons in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, will go eight-deep in his rotation, but won’t use anybody over 6’7”.

The Lions are trying to push the pace more this year: averaging 72.0 possessions per game in 2019-2020, after averaging 67.6 per game a year ago.

Good luck with that: Virginia ranks 353rd, dead last, in the nation in tempo, averaging 64.6 possessions per game.

UVA coach Tony Bennett demonstrated in Sunday’s win over JMU that he isn’t afraid to use his big lineup – featuring 7’1” Jay Huff, 6’9” Mamadi Diakite and 6’8” Braxton Key – against smaller opponents.

Those three have been on the floor together for 41.6 percent of Virginia’s minutes this season.

If Engles has any zone in his repertoire, he might want to bust it out for Saturday’s game with the ‘Hoos, who are shooting just 16 percent from three-point range through two games, going 4-for-25 from behind the arc in each of their wins, over Syracuse and JMU.

Story by Chris Graham

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