Get out of the way! Sara Mead's coming through!

Get out of the way! Sara Mead’s coming through!

Bwog’s basketball boffin, Max Rettig, witnessed an impressive win over Harvard by Columbia’s Women’s Backetball Team.

Alexa Giuliano hit the three. Tori Oliver got inside their collective mind. Sara Mead sealed the deal. And the Columbia Lions dominated together at home against the Harvard Crimson, winning their first Ivy contest 59-43.

Typical of this season, the Lions began the game frantically and somewhat sloppily, with a couple of early “walking” violations. Unlike in past games, the Lions used this fast pace to their advantage, getting ahead early, forcing Harvard into bad offensive positions, and eliciting poor shots with in-your-face defense. First-year Giuliano led the Lions’ shooting charge, connecting on a couple of early treys and leading with eight points. Midway through the first half, the Lions led 20-4.

Columbia hit an offensive lull in the latter minutes of the first half, giving the Crimson a chance to increase their point total, but the Lions still maintained a comfortable lead. As usual, sophomore Tori Oliver used her strong presence to intimidate the Crimson girls, and Camille Zimmerman took several hard fouls from Harvard’s Shilpa Tummala, who found herself in early trouble.

With mere seconds left, Columbia inbounded and advanced the ball to Mead near Harvard’s basket, but Temi Fagbenle knocked it away as the halftime buzzer sounded. The Lions took a 31-18 lead into the locker room.

Coming out of the break, the Crimson continued their strong run, scoring a quick five points. But the Lions again played aggressive defense and got back into their shooting groove. The closest the Crimson would come was within six, but the Lions led by double digits for the vast majority of the game, holding leads as high as 17 and 18 points.

Devon Roeper, matched up against Harvard’s best and tallest player Temi Fagbenle (6’4″, 15.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg), rarely let Fagbenle get loose. She also contributed 4-of-6 shooting on offense and grabbed four offensive boards to keep Columbia possessions alive.

Sara Mead stole the spotlight in the last several minutes of the game with excellent foul shooting. As the clock wound down, Harvard began desperately fouling and it was Mead who stepped to the line most often. She contributed to the Lions’ Ivy-leading free throw percentage by connecting on 7 of 8 foul shots within two minutes, using her signature high-arcing shot to paint a rainbow over the lane.

With 1.8 seconds left, Harvard again fouled Columbia, but for no clear reason. At that point, the Lions were long victorious, and as those last ticks expired and the buzzer sounded, the players on the court joined the bench in jubilant celebration. For good reason: the win marked not only the team’s first of this Ivy season, but also the first against Harvard at Levien and only the third in the history of the matchup.

Statistically, the Lions were far superior. They shot a respectable 34 percent on the game and a strong 35 percent from downtown, at one point hitting half of those shots. Giuliano and Oliver both enjoyed double-doubles (pts-rbs) with 12-13 and 11-11 respectively, and Mead contributed 14 points on 11-of-12 overall from the line. Tori Oliver also spent 39 minutes on the court, proving again to be a durable and dependable force.

For Harvard, the story was a bit different, and this might be the most telling evidence: 3-of-22 from beyond the arc, an abysmal 13.6 percent. And their overall shooting wasn’t much better at 22.4 percent. Erin McDonnell hit two of the three treys, but was just 2-of-9 overall from downtown. Only free throws seemed to go down in abundance, but those didn’t prove helpful with the final score showing a 16-point difference.

With absolutely nothing to lose, the Lions played aggressively and brilliantly. They stayed in the Crimson’ faces but out of foul trouble, and took decisive shots. While they are out of any race for the Ivy title at 1-6, they are a vastly improving and very young team. And they played like they were in first place last night.

The Lions tip off against the Dartmouth Big Green tonight at 7 pm as they compete in the annual game supporting cancer research with a prime chance to break out of the Ivy cellar.

Taking charge via Columbia University Athletics/Eric Sucar