There are plenty of new things surrounding the Columbia College basketball program. There’s a roster with seven new players on it. There are two brand new scoreboards, including one that keeps a running tally of individual players points and fouls. And those new players, who are seeing their points on the new scoreboards, are doing so in new uniforms that give a nod to the past, while still keeping a fresh look.
So, while there are new elements to the Columbia program, not everything has changed. No, the most important thing is the Claim Jumpers continue to win on their home floor. Since the beginning of 2017, Columbia has gone 29-5 in front of the hometown crowd and that home dominance continued with an 87-68 victory over the College of Marin Saturday night at Oak Pavilion.
“It was a lot of fun tonight,” Columbia freshman Grayson Carper said about his first experience playing at home. “The fans came out to support and there was super energy.”
Columbia head coach Rob Hoyt knows the success of his team at home, but for the two-time Central Valley Conference Coach of the Year, it doesn't matter what floor his team steps on, because he’s always ready to go.
“It’s nice to not travel, as that can be pretty brutal at times,” Hoyt said. “But, I just get excited when it’s game day. I don't care where it’s at, or what time, or against whom. I just want to play. But more than anything, it’s exciting to play a really good team and I thought that Marin was a really good team, who is very physical and didn’t back down, so it was a great test for our guys.”
Columbia entered Saturday’s matchup having won its first two games of the season. The Jumpers knocked off Cosumnes River 90-76 and then Folsom Lake 94-81 as part of the Falcons Classic Tournament Nov. 1-2 in Folsom.
Columbia began Saturday’s game a little slow out of the gate. Sophomore Kaleb Carter got the hometown crowd excited with an early dunk, but Marin put together a 9-0 run to take a 15-9 lead with 12:41 to play in the first half.
Trailing by six, Columbia went on a 7-0 run, which was highlighted by a powerful alley-oop dunk from Carper. That was the biggest run the Jumpers went on in the opening 20 minutes and Marin was able to match Columbia shot-for-shot.
“The offense just wasn’t clicking at first, but we weren’t worried at all,” Carter said. “We knew it was going to come.”
With under two minutes to play in the half, sophomore Landis Spivey drained a 3-point basket and freshman Kyndle Terrell-Jones followed that with points in the paint and the Jumpers led at the midway point 34-31.
“We knew what we were doing wrong and we knew how to fix it,” Carper said about the adjustments heading into the second half. “We were able to correct a lot of those mistakes in the second half.”
Those adjustments didn’t come right away, as Marin began the half on a 5-0 run to go ahead 36-34. Trailing by two, the Jumpers went on their biggest run of the night. Carper hit a three from the top of the key, Spivey and sophomore Seth Coddington each drained two free throws and then Spivey made a shot from downtown to cap Columbia’s 10-2 run.
Marin cut the Columbia lead to 44-40, but Carper drained another three, while sophomore Keith Shakes and Coddington added two more baskets to give the Jumpers a 51-40 advantage. With 12:41 to play in the game, Carter slammed down a powerful dunk, which again gave those inside Oak Pavilion something to cheer about.
Carter finished the night with 10 points and six blocked shots.
“I’m feeling comfortable with my role,” Carter said. “Coach gave me an opportunity last year and I’m grateful for that. He told me that this year he wants me to finish at the rim on offense and protect at the rim on defense. I’m trying to do that and get better and better.”
Even as Columbia (3-0) was adding to its lead, the outside shots weren’t falling as they should. Columbia made six shots from downtown, but that number could have been way higher. Even though the Jumpers weren’t overly hot from downtown, Hoyt just wants to see the shots going up.
“I’m not mad about our outside shooting tonight,” Hoyt said. “As long as we are taking the shots we want; some are going to go and some aren’t. If we are taking the shots where we want and when we want, then we are good.”
With six minutes to play and Columbia leading 68-57, the game slowed down dramatically because of fouls. Both teams combined for 50 fouls throughout the evening and shot 45 free throws in the second half. With the constant whistle blowing, it was hard for either team to go on any significant run late in the game.
“It’s really hard to get any sort of rhythm,” Hoyt said. “But a lot of that, you just have to take ownership of and be a little tougher. I’m teaching these guys about how to handle adversity and we can’t control the whistle. We can control our attitude and effort, but as soon as it gets in our head that something’s against us, we are already lost and I think we did a good job with that.”
Perhaps it was Columbia’s free throw shooting in the second half that helped put the game away. The Jumpers were 23-28 from the charity stripe in the final 20 minutes.
In the final two minutes of the evening, Columbia outscored Marin 12-2 to clinch its third win in a row. Coddington led the Jumpers with 24 points, followed by Spivey with 16, Carper with 14, Jones with 12 and Carter with 10.
“I’ll never be satisfied with my game, but I’m very satisfied with the win,” Carper said. “If we win, that’s all that matters.”
It’s still very early in the season and Hoyt is still tinkering with the lineup and trying to figure out who will be ready to go come conference play in January. Hoyt knows it’s a long year and he just wants his players to get a little better every day.
“I want to see our guys trying to make an effort to improve,” he said. “I want them to be the best they can be. Right now, it’s just the day-to-day thing with fundamentals and getting a good feel for how to play at this level.”
Saturday’s victory was one Hoyt will always remember, as it was his 100th career win as Columbia’s head coach.