Kelly Clark started the game with a layup for Wagner College (1-1) and never stopped scoring in the Seahawks’ victory over the Columbia Lions (0-3) on Wednesday night.
Wagner’s star senior led the charge, putting up a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. She went 7-8 from the field to help Wagner to shoot 55 percent from the field.
“We tried to really limit her near the basket. Once she gets the ball near the basket, she is near automatic,” head coach Paul Nixon said of Clark.
While the Lions had both fewer turnovers and more rebounds than the Seahawks, they only shot 33 percent from the field in the game, unable to match Wagner’s offensive production.
“I thought that we did make some strides offensively. There were some points in the game we looked more fluid on offense, but we didn’t convert opportunities consistently enough,” Nixon said. “However, the shooting percentage and score doesn’t tell the whole story—the offense was better tonight, but the result wasn’t what it needed to be.”
The Lions played evenly with the Seahawks in the first half. Freshman guard Miwa Tachibana scored her first collegiate basket for Columbia to tie the game at 13 points with 13 minutes to go in the first half.
“We are pleased that she had an opportunity to step up and have more playing time. We are happy she found a way to be productive with those minutes,” Nixon said.
Columbia took a five-point lead over Wagner with 11 minutes remaining in the half when senior guard Melissa Shafer sunk a three-pointer, the 118th in her collegiate career, tying her for fourth place on the Columbia women’s basketball all-time triple list.
Wagner brought it back even, and the teams went into halftime tied at 26. Coming back from the break, the Lions struck first as junior guard Brittany Simmons hit a jumper. Wagner took the lead right back, though, starting an 8-3 run that put the Seahawks up 46-39.
Tachibana, who led the Light Blue with 11 points, sank two free throws to reduce Wagner’s lead to five points with 12 minutes remaining in regulation. However, the Seahawks went on a 14-4 run over the next five minutes to go up 57-42 with six minutes to go to put the game out of reach.
“During that run, we allowed them to get too many touches right around the basket,” Nixon said. “They brought Kelly Clark out to the perimeter, and we allowed them to get her the ball in some very prime scoring areas. We actually got some decent looks on our offensive end, but we didn’t put them down.”
Columbia finished with a three-pointer from sophomore guard Taylor Ward in the final seconds to close the game at 66-54.
“I thought that we did a better job of taking care of the ball. We cut down on our turnovers, and we have been getting the shots,” Nixon said. “So now we got to take better shots in order to have a higher percentage.”
The Lions will look to rebound and secure their first win of the season when they head to Brooklyn to take on St. Francis next Wednesday.