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Head coach Megan Griffith looks to improve the Lions' poor record in her first season without star forward Camille Zimmerman, CC '18.

Women’s basketball will open its 2018-19 season on Friday, facing off against Hofstra in Hempstead. The game is the first of the nonconference schedule for the Lions, who hope to gain experience prior to competition within the Ivy League.

During the 2017-18 season, the Lions beat the Pride 75-53 at home. Last season, however, Columbia was bolstered by powerhouse forward Camille Zimmerman, CC ’18, who signed with the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx following graduation. Against Hofstra, Zimmerman scored 24 points, almost a third of the team’s overall points. Zimmerman also contributed 13 rebounds.

While Zimmerman herself has left Columbia, her name and legacy are remembered in Columbia’s record books. Zimmerman is Columbia’s all-time leading scorer in both men’s and women’s basketball. She also leads the women’s program in rebounds and games played, and is the fourth all-time Ivy League scorer.

Even with Zimmerman’s significant impact, the Lions ended last season 2-12 in Ancient Eight play—beating Cornell and Brown—and in last place in the Ivy League conference. Columbia went 6-9 in nonconference games and had a record of 8-21 overall.

Fortunately for the Light Blue, three of the five starters of last year’s game against Hofstra—sophomore guard Riley Casey, junior guard Janiya Clemmons, and sophomore forward/center Madison Pack will return for Friday’s game. These three and others are looking to step up this season in light of Zimmerman’s graduation.

Last season, Casey was ranked second behind Zimmerman in overall minutes, averaging 32.1 minutes per game. She was also ranked second in scoring, averaging 10.2 points per game. Clemmons had the third highest minutes and points of the team, averaging 25 minutes and 7.2 points per game, and was ranked second in rebounds, averaging four per game. Pack, meanwhile, was ranked third in rebounds with an average of 3.8 per game.

Seventeen players make up this year’s team, six of whom are first-years.

“This is the first go-around for seven of our kids in a Columbia uniform,” head coach Megan Griffith, CC ’07, said. “You’ll see a lot of them on the floor, so it’ll be good for them to get that energy out, and learn how to play with each other when the lights go on.”

With 11 underclassmen, the Lions boast a young roster. If not this year, the team’s youth could help their standing in the Ivy League in years to come.

But this season, Griffith and company remain focused on securing the program’s first-ever Ancient Eight crown.

“[This game] has to be the thing that sets the tone for us, but it’s not the defining point of our season,” Griffith said. “As long as we keep everyone’s head in that direction, we’ll be just fine after whatever happens. After the ball tips, we’ll be just fine.”

Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. on Nov. 9 in Hempstead, New York. The game will be broadcasted on Pride Productions.

nia.simmons@columbiaspectator.com | @CUSpecSports

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