MANHATTAN, N.Y. – As sure as winter turns to spring each year, college basketball assumes of new luster.
And Columbia is doing all it can to raise its image across the landscape.
The Lions took one more gigantic leap in that direction by using a 12-2 spurt to close the game to overcome Fordham 78-73 on March, 20 in the second round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) on March 20 at Levien Gymnasium on the Columbia campus.
The win moves the Lions, who improved to 25-5 on the season, into the Super 16 round where they will play in-state foe Syracuse of the Atlantic Coast Conference on March 24 at home. The winner of that game will advance to the quarterfinal round to play either Rhode Island or Harvard.
It is the second appearance in the WNIT quarterfinal round for Columbia in as many seasons as coach Megan Griffith continues to take her program to new heights. Griffith, who became the school’s wins leader with a win over Fairleigh Dickinson to open the tournament, has led the Lions to a 50-12 since the beginning of the 2021-22 season.
Fordham, meanwhile, saw its season come to end with a 19-13 overall record.
“It was a great battle with two very experienced teams, Griffith said, while savoring her team’s most recent triumph. “It was a fun game to coach in. I think it was a fun game for these guys to play in … big-time players on both sides of the ball and it was a great game.
The two teams battled throughout the game and changed leads 23 times in the contest.
Columbia’s Jada Patrick and Kaitlyn Davis sparked the late rally against the Rams that eventually allowed the Lions to secure the win.
The two teams began the final 10 minutes of play tied 59-59 and it appeared the Rams would prevail by building a 71-66 lead with a nifty stop-and-go drive to the rim with 3:59 remaining in the game to put Fordham in front 71-66.
But the Lions had other ideas.
Sierra Durr and Abbey Hsu connected on back-to-back field goals in a span of 24 seconds to pull the Lions to within 71-70 with 1:48 remaining in the game.
A short time later Jada Patrick’s drove the right baseline for a field goal with 1:19 left in the game that put the Lions in front for the first time since leading 59-57 late in the third period.
The visiting Rams regained the lead with just 26 seconds left in the game when Jada Dapaa tipped an offensive rebound back to teammate Kaitlyn Downey, who nailed a jumper from near the free throw line that put the Rams back in front 73-72.
For Downey, it was her first points of the night after having missed on her first six shots of the game as the Lion defense clamped down on the Fordham standout.
Columbia’s Kaitlyn Davis gave the Lions the lead for good after putting back an offensive rebound and adding a free throw to make it 75-73 with 19.2 seconds left in the game. Patrick hit a pair of free throws with 16.6 left in the game and Hannah Pratt’s free throw with 5.2 seconds remaining on the clock proved to be the final point of the game.
Neither team managed to lead by more than four points in the first quarter of the contest that seven ties through the first 10 minutes of play.
It was not until Columbia got 3-pointers from a pair of 3-pointers from Patrick in a span of 1:27, surrounded by a field goal from Columbia’s Sarah Karpell, that Columbia was able to build a 24-16 lead with 8:13 left in the half after holding a slim 18-14 advantage to start the period.
The eight-point lead would prove to be the biggest lead of the game for the eventual victors.
Dapaa sparked a nine-point run by scoring four points as part of the run that began with a 3-pointer from Anna DeWolfe, that allowed Fordham to regain the lead 25-24 with 4:36 left in the first half.
An apparent 3-pointer from Hsu late in the period appeared to give the Lions a 34-33 lead at the intermission.
But, after the half ended, officials reviewed the play and determined Hsu’s shot did not hit the net before the shot clock expired and Fordham found itself in front 33-31 heading into the second half.
Hsu finished with a team-high 20 points for the Lions and was four players to reach double figures in scoring. She connected on nine of 19 shots from the floor, which included just two of 10 from behind the arc.
Her 20 points moved her career total to 1,442 points and moves her to within five points of tying former Columbia standout Ula Lysniak (1983-87) for second-most in program history.
Patrick had an impressive performance in the win. She was six of 11 from the floor and connected of four of five free throws to end the game with 18 points. She also finished tied with Davis with seven rebounds, which trailed Hsu’s team-best 12 rebounds which allowed the Lions to win the rebounding battle 45-40.
Davis and Pratt ended the game with 16 and 12 points, respectively, for the Lions.
DeWolfe, despite being successful on just nine of 25 field goals in the game, finished with a game-high 21 points for the Rams. Teammate Asiah Dingle, who was just two of 13 from the floor in the first half, was a pest for Columbia in the second half by connecting on seven of 12 shots over the final 20 minutes to also finish nine of 25 from the floor and 20 points. She also led the Rams with 10 rebounds in the contest.
Dapass was the third Ram to end the game in double figures in scoring. She netted 16 points in the contest.
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.