Women’s basketball suffered a heartbreaking 65-63 loss at the buzzer against Buffalo Saturday afternoon. The Lions, who led for most of the second half, allowed Buffalo’s forward Brittany Morrison to break free for a wide open layup that sealed the game for the Bulls.
Senior forward Camille Zimmerman and first-year guard Riley Casey led the way for Columbia (5-6) for the entirety of the game. Zimmerman, the Lions’ leading scorer, tied her season high by scoring 28 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Casey also recorded a career-high 18 points coupled with five assists.
Columbia struggled early in the first quarter to generate team offense and relied heavily on Zimmerman, who drained three three-pointers in the first quarter, one of which came to beat the buzzer at the end of the quarter.
The Light Blue was stifled early in the second quarter by Buffalo’s top-ranked defense as the Lions’ offense started the quarter with back-to-back shot-clock violations. However, Columbia began to pull away as first-year starters Madison Pack, center, and Casey nailed two threes that would bolster the Lions’ lead halfway through the quarter.
But the Bulls (7-1) would come storming back, taking a 26-25 lead with just 1:50 remaining in the period. The lead changed hands again as Casey drained two free throws with under one second remaining in the quarter, putting the Lions up 32-27 at the half.
Columbia came out of the locker room strong, taking a 39-32 lead with seven minutes remaining in the quarter. Though Buffalo would then retaliate with a 9-2 run, during which it came within one point of the Lions’ 42, Columbia was able to hold off the Bulls the rest of the way and eventually entered the fourth quarter with a 52-48 lead.
The Lions held onto their lead for much of the fourth quarter until Buffalo surged ahead with 5:40 remaining in the quarter. Columbia went cold from behind the arc midway through the fourth but kept trading baskets with the Bulls in the final minutes of the game.
The Light Blue proved tough down the stretch as Zimmerman drained two free throws with 1:46 remaining, moving the Lions to within two points of the Bulls, 63-61. On the following possession, sophomore guard Janiya Clemmons tied the game with one minute remaining at 63-63. Neither team scored on the following two possessions, which allowed for Buffalo to call a timeout and hold for the final shot.
After the Lions used their final foul to give, the Bulls again called timeout to draw up a final out-of-bounds play from beneath their own basket. Coming out of the timeout, Morrison slipped free for a wide-open layup which she sank for the 65-63 win as time expired.
After the difficult loss, the Lions will continue to challenge themselves with tough out-of-conference opponents, facing Hofstra (5-4) on Monday night at home. Hofstra has performed at a higher level than its record indicates, as it recorded a Power Five victory against Wake Forest in November.
The Lions at home match up very well with Hofstra. However, should the Light Blue look to return to .500, Columbia will look for increased production from the bench in order to pull off a victory. The Lions, who have recently struggled on offense, will look to take advantage of the 15.7 turnovers per game that Hofstra is averaging this season.
The Lions will undoubtedly hope to receive the same production from Casey that they received on Saturday against Buffalo when she carried the team in the second half, hitting a lot of big shots down the stretch.
Tipoff against Hofstra is Monday at 7 p.m. in Levien Gymnasium.