Columbia Women Claim First WNIT Victory

NEW YORK CITY – In the concrete jungle of New York City, and not far from the noisy subway system that transits millions of patrons to points throughout the city each day, from the standard continued to be raised as Columbia achieved another milestone in the history of the women’s basketball program.

And along the way one Lion etched her name in the record book at the school and the Ivy League. 

Abbey Hsu led three players in double figures as Columbia defeated Holy Cross 80-69 on March 16 at Levien Gymnasium in the opening round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. It was the first-ever appearance in the WNIT for Columbia in the WNIT.

The win moves the Lions into the second round where they will play either Towson or Old Dominion, who will play March 18 at Towson. The date and time of the second-round game is to be determined.

The Crusaders, the Patriot League champion during the regular season before falling to Navy in the conference championship game in dramatic fashion to end their hopes of advancing to the NCAA Tournament.

Hsu, Columbia’s leading scorer during the regular season with 16.4 points per game, entered the postseason game as the most prolific single season 3-point producer in school history and only added to that by climbing to the top of the Ivy League in that department.

The five-foot, 11-inch guard, who entered the game with a school record 97 3-pointers this season, finished with five treys, including three in the first half, to help set the tone in the contest. 

Hsu’s 97 3-pointers shared the top spot in Ivy League history with former Dartmouth standout Courtney Banghart, who nailed 97 3-pointers as a junior (1998-99). Banghart was later the head coach at Princeton (2007-19) before taking over at North Carolina. 

Hsu’s five 3-pointers in the game allowed her to surpass Melissa Shafer (2008-12) for the most in school history. Hsu now has 167 treys in her Columbia career.

“It was not our best four-quarter effort,” said Columbia coach Megan Griffith, who is in her sixth season as coach at the school, “but I do think we showed up when we needed to.”

Griffith, a member of the Columbia Athletics Hall of Fame, was spot on with her assessment of her Lions, who improved to 23-6 with the win. Those 23 wins are the most in a single season at the school.

Hsu’s first 3-pointer of the postseason took little time as she connected from the top of arc just 16 seconds into the contest to give the Lions the lead.

Holy Cross had answers in the early going. 

The Crusaders scored the next four points to take a 4-3 lead and got a field goal from Madison Demski that put the visitors in front 8-7 with 6:27 to play in the first quarter. 

Patrick, a transfer from Duke, scored her second basket of the period to put the Lions back in front 9-8 less than 30 seconds later.

It was an indication of what the rest of the night would hold for the Crusaders.

Holy Cross would never regain the lead and were stymied as each time the Crusaders would cut the deficit, the Lions would have an answer of their own to maintain the advantage.

Columbia eventually built its lead to double digits when Davis converted a traditional 3-pointer to put her team in front 53-43 with 2:50 remaining in the third quarter. Sienna Durr scored a short time later to extend the Columbia lead to 55-43 with 2:30 left in the period.

Holy Cross still managed to whittle that deficit down by going on a 9-0 run over the next three minutes. Demski’s 3-pointer from the left side pulled the Crusaders to within 55-52 with 9:26 to go in the game. 

This time it was a 9-2 scoring spurt by the Lions that pushed the lead back to double digits at 64-54 with just over seven minutes left in the contest and the Crusaders would get no closer than seven points the rest of the way.

Jaida Patrick and Kaitlyn Davis finished with 18 and 15 points, respectively, in the game for the Lions to join Hsu in double figures. Hsu finished with eight total field goals in the game on 15 attempts and finished five of nine from behind the arc while connecting on all three of her free throw attempts.

Davis also paced Columbia with seven rebounds in the game and Hsu added six caroms of her own.

Holy Cross, which ends its season at 20-11, also placed three players in double figures in scoring. Avery LaBarbera, this year’s Patriot League player of the year, led the Crusaders with 21 points in her final collegiate game while adding a game-high eight rebounds. She was joined in double figures in scoring by Addisyn Cross (13) and Janelle Allen (11).