Women’s basketball outscored Army 40-24 in the second half en route to a 70-49 victory in its home opener.
The Lions (2-0) came out of the locker room at the beginning of the second half up by just five and looking to extend their lead. A three-pointer from first-year point guard Mikayla Markham sparked a 9-0 run to open the second half, capitalized by a jumper from junior guard Janiya Clemmons.
Clemmons, who finished with 8 points, tallied 2 assists on back-to-back three-pointers from sophomore guard Riley Casey and junior guard/forward Stephanie Flynn, and the Lions did not look back from there, ultimately cruising past the Black Knights (1-1).
Head coach Megan Griffith, CC ’07, noted that the team’s third quarter was crucially important to determining the outcome of the game in the end.
“With a young team we have to be able to roll with the punches a little bit,” Griffith said. “And so for us to start with some momentum into a weekend where we’re playing two really good teams in the midwest, [the win is] going to be valuable for us.”
Leading the way for the Light Blue was guard/forward Sienna Durr, who tallied 21 points on 10-for-17 shooting from the floor, in addition to 7 boards. Wearing the same number as Camille Zimmerman, CC ’18, Columbia basketball’s recently graduated all-time leading scorer, Durr dominated the Black Knights on a series of offensive possessions, using her speed to get past Army defenders for easy layups.
Durr, who had 15 points in the first game of her career, was pleased with her performance, noting that she felt that the Black Knight defenders gave her plenty of opportunities to drive to her right.
“I was actually a little bit surprised that they kept guarding me so high,” Durr said. “When they are up there like that, I knew I was quicker than the people that were guarding me, so I knew I could just go to the basket.”
The Lions started slowly, shooting just 21.1 percent in the first quarter. While the team scored just 9 points, it was fortunate that Army was abysmal from the free throw line all game long. In the end, although the Black Knights got to the line 26 times, they made just 13 free throws.
Casey, who was the second leading scorer a season ago, came off the bench and instantly provided energy on both sides of the floor for the Lions. After sophomore guard/forward Imani Whittington hit a jumper in the paint for the team’s first score of the game, Durr followed up with a steal, taking the ball down the court for a quick layup to tie up the game at 4-4, Casey hit her first three-pointer of the game. She finished with two threes, collecting 8 points in 17 minutes.
With the Lions in front by three points near the end of the second quarter, first-year guard Sydney Brown corralled a rebound on a miss from Army and outletted to Durr, who sprinted down the floor and beat the buzzer with a layup. That play put the Lions up by 5 going into the break and ultimately served as a sign of more positivity to come for Columbia, which has now won its first home opener since the 2015 season.
The Light Blue, which is generally undersized, was out-rebounded 46-35. Griffith noted that despite the team’s lack of size, that there would need to be an effort from the coaches and players alike to commit to working harder to limit second-chance opportunities.
According to Griffith, for a young team, the victory instills a sense of confidence going into the rest of the nonconference slate. Clemmons echoed that sentiment.
“There were definite some rough spots [at the beginning], but it was great to see how relentless we were,” Clemmons said. “We never gave up, we never had negative energy, and we kept pushing.”
The Lions will defend their undefeated record against Milwaukee in Wisconsin this Friday. The tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.