The Lions faced a tough challenge when SEC opponent Vanderbilt came to town. The Commodores pulled away in the fourth quarter to top Columbia 74–63.

Following last year’s deep run in the WNIT tournament, expectations for Columbia Women’s Basketball (2–1) were high coming into this season. With a strong roster of returning players, the Lions set out to keep the program’s momentum going as they kicked off their 2022–2023 campaign.

Having picked up two road wins again Memphis and Delaware last week, it was time for the Lions to take on a bigger challenge: the Vanderbilt Commodores (3–0). An excited and passionate crowd came out to support the Lions on Sunday in their first home contest against the SEC squad, but, facing such a tough opponent, the Lions would need to be on top of their game if they were to remain unbeaten.

Things got off to a fast start as Columbia exploded offensively in the first quarter, led by the dominant performance of Senior Forward Kaitlyn Davis (CC ’23). After just five minutes of action, the Lions jumped out to a 15–4 lead, dominating on the boards and suffocating the Commodores with staunch half-court defense. Vanderbilt eventually started to find its footing later in the first quarter, yet Columbia was still firmly in control. After the first quarter, the Lions held a 22–14 lead, out-rebounding Vanderbilt 12–2. Davis chipped in 11 points and 4 rebounds after the first ten minutes of action.

In the second quarter, momentum started to swing Vanderbilt’s way as the Commodores began to pick apart the Lions’ defense. Two quick baskets by Commodore Guard Ciaja Harbison cut the Columbia lead to just four points, 22–18. Senior Guard Jaida Patrick (CC ’23) responded with a three-pointer to stave off the rapidly encroaching Commodores (for the time being). The rest of the half passed by in a back-and-forth manner, until Vanderbilt’s Marnelle Garraud hit a crucial three-pointer to give the Commodores their first lead since the opening minutes of the game, suddenly grabbing a 37–36 advantage with under a minute left.

A buzzer-beating three by Junior Nicole Stephens (BC ’24) sparked the crowd and gave the lead back to the Lions heading into halftime. But Columbia’s 39–37 advantage felt precarious at best with the Commodores becoming more and more aggressive. Two Lions put up double figures in the first half, with Davis scoring 13 and Senior Forward Hannah Pratt (CC ’23) adding 11.

Halftime Score: 39–37 Columbia

The third quarter saw the momentum change hands between both teams. After six lead changes early in the half, Vanderbilt’s Garraud hit another crucial three-pointer, putting the Commodores ahead 56–54 with 1:14 left in the quarter. Vanderbilt would never trail again, as Columbia’s offense hit a brick wall.

The Lions did not score for nearly eight minutes of action as Vanderbilt went on a 14–0 run. This scoreless stretch was eventually broken with a free throw from Paige Lauder (CC ’24) with 4:17 remaining in the fourth quarter, but the damage was already done. The Lions would not mount a comeback in the final minutes, with Vanderbilt coasting to a 74–63 victory.

The Lions were held back by foul trouble and poor free-throw shooting, converting just 11 of 25 attempts from the line. Columbia also failed to contain Ciaja Harbison, who led the way for Vanderbilt by scoring 27 points.

Columbia was led by the performances of the team’s senior stand-outs Kaitlyn Davis and Hannah Pratt, who scored 24 and 15 points, respectively. Davis also pulled down 9 rebounds, leading all players and nearly grabbing. double-double. These individual performances and the clear chemistry of this team leave plenty to be excited about as this year’s campaign gets underway.

Following the loss, Women’s Basketball will now go back on the road, taking on Seton Hall Thursday and traveling to Ames, Iowa for a contest with the nationally-ranked Iowa State Cyclones on Sunday. The next home match-up will see the Lions square off with Marist on December 1.

Levien Gymnasium by Elijah Knodell