The Lions claimed their second weekend sweep of the season, beating Brown 76-66, before beating the Bulldogs 74-65 the next day, avenging an earlier embarrassing home loss against Yale. After four straight wins over the last two weeks, the Lions are back in an Ivy Madness position, currently tied for third on the Ivy table. This is the first time since 2008 that the program has had two consecutive weekend sweeps.
The Light Blue (15-8, 6-4 Ivy) secured a winning record after outplaying the Bears (8-15, 2-8 Ivy) on Friday, achieving its first winning season since 2009-10. The team’s win in New Haven ended a six-game, 3-year losing streak against the Bulldogs as well.
This season is also head coach Megan Griffith’s first winning season in her four with the Lions. Griffith said that she is still focused on getting the team to play in March this season and that it took “one step at a time” for her to keep them improving every day.
“It definitely was hard,” Griffith said about clinching the winning season. “It was harder than I thought it was going to be. It’s an ongoing fight … and you’ve got to trust that you’re doing what’s right, and trust the people you’re working with.”
The Friday game against Brown was reminiscent of Columbia’s win against the Bears in New York, as the Lions secured a first-half lead going into halftime and held off Brown’s third-quarter resurgence to eventually take the game with a strong fourth quarter.
First-year guard Abbey Hsu, coming off of her fourth Rookie of the Week selection and her first Player of the Week selection, was in a shooting slump in the first three quarters, going just 3 of 12 from the field, but found her spark in the fourth with two three-pointers. The Bears pressed the Lions in nearly every possession during the fourth quarter, but the Lions kept their composure and broke the full-court press with ease.
“Because we press [too], we see that every day and we practice against that,” Griffith said. “It’s more about just being calm at that moment. … It wasn’t a perfect game … but I think we showed some more maturity when we needed that to be done.”
The team immediately turned to the Yale game after defeating Brown, eager to come back from its last matchup against the Bulldogs, when the Light Blue allowed a 59.6 shooting percentage. The Lions and the Bulldogs were the top two offensive powerhouses in the Ivy League before the matchup, so the defensive battle was crucial. Last time, it was the Bulldogs who forced the Lions to shoot just 36.1 percent from the field, while the Lions’ poor execution on double teams and rotations allowed Yale’s shooters to make 13 threes.
In this game, the Light Blue flipped it around with a more disciplined defense. Most of Columbia’s defense came off from Yale’s Megan Gorman, an unproductive perimeter shooter who entered the game with only three successful threes this season. The Lions put her on the spot, and she made three three-pointers in this game alone, but leaving her open prevented Yale’s shooters from having easy shots. The Bulldogs had just five threes the entire game on 25 percent shooting.
By the half, despite Yale’s containment of Hsu, who scored just 2 points up to that point, Columbia established a solid 14-point lead after a 21-2 run starting in the late first quarter and running into the second. However, Yale’s offense sparked in the third quarter just like it did in Levien Gymnasium. In one possession, the referees charged sophomore forward Lilian Kennedy with an intentional foul on Yale’s score, and Yale got 6 points in one possession alone. Griffith saw it as a lesson for the team to always be mindful of the details in executing its defense.
With just under nine minutes to go in the fourth, the Lions’ lead was down to just 2 points, but Durr, Hsu, and sophomore guard Mikayla Markham came up with four consecutive triples to silence the crowd and help the Lions to regain momentum.
“We talked a lot about … the moment, like the moment can’t be too big for you,” Griffith said. “To me, it’s a matter of again not letting the moment and the emotions of that moment get to you. I thought our girls did a really good job at just playing fearlessly when they needed to.”
The scariest part of the Ivy League’s best offensive team is its depth. When Hsu was targeted by the opponents’ defense this weekend, other Lions stepped up. Durr averaged 17.5 points for the Light Blue and first-year forward Kaitlyn Davis added 13.5 points. Markham also shot 8 of 13 over the two-game stretch and made four triples with 66.7 percent shooting.
The Lions look to continue their winning streak next weekend against a Harvard team that has struggled on the offensive side this season. Tipoff will be at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 28. Then the Lions will travel to New Hampshire to face Dartmouth on Saturday, Feb. 29 at 5 p.m. Both games will be broadcast on ESPN Plus.