There’s a loud noise emanating from the upper west side of Manhattan these days — and it’s not related to the traffic or construction. Columbia men’s basketball co-captain Craig Austin and the rest of the Lions are roaring.
The Light Blue are fresh off a weekend sweep of perennial Ivy League powerhouses Pennsylvania and Princeton, thanks in large part to a combined 38 points in two games from the junior forward who is averaging 17.4 points per game.
Austin, who ranks third in the league in scoring, averages 41 percent from behind the three-point arc
The back-to-back shockers have energized the Lions as the head into tonight’s contest with the Bulldogs.
“Beating Penn and Princeton this past weekend, supposedly the two best teams in the league, has raised our confidence a lot,” Austin said. “We feel like we are playing as good as anybody else in the league, and believe we can beat anybody.”
To do so, head coach Armond Hill knows the Lions will need Austin to bring his best game each and every night.
“He has carried us the whole year,” Hill said.
With his multitude of offensive weapons, people often lose sight of Austin’s defensive presence.
“His defense is definitely overlooked,” Hill said. “He’s one of our better defenders on and off the ball.”
Yale head coach James Jones agreed.
“He is one of the most versatile players in the league,” Jones said.
Austin scored 31 points earlier this season in an 80-78 double overtime loss to the Bulldogs. But the Buffalo, N.Y., native knows good defense is the key to thwarting the Elis.
“We need to keep them off the boards and control [Chris] Leanza [’03],” Austin said. “We need to keep the ball out of his hands.”
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs will look to stifle Columbia’s roar and turn it into more of a muted rumble by reducing Austin’s looks at the basket.
“We have to limit his touches and not give him easy shots,” Jones said.
But Jones knows that with a player like Austin, that may not be enough.
“He made some tough shots last time,” he said. “He is one of — if not the — best players in the league.”