Columbia’s three-point shooting was as cold as the snow-filled campus over the game’s first 35 minutes, but a late surge from downtown lifted the Lions to a 76-66 victory in the conference opener against Cornell.
The Light Blue (10-4, 1-0 Ivy) tried to deny the inside early against the Big Red, one of the nation’s top rebounding and two-point shooting teams. Cornell (7-6, 0-1 Ivy) foiled that plan by taking a 10-7 lead on the boards and hitting three of six shots from beyond the arc. Thanks to a strong 47% shooting effort, Columbia was able to finish the first 10 minutes with the score tied at 20.
Cornell, a team that averages four three-pointers a game and makes just under 62% of its free throws, made two more from downtown and went a perfect 4-of-4 from the charity stripe in the second quarter on its way to a 40-36 halftime lead. Just as important, the Red more than matched Columbia’s uptempo pressure, forcing the Lions into eight turnovers and capturing eight points during that frame. Cornell, which averages just under 20 turnovers a game, only gave the ball over three times in that same span.
The two teams, which shot a combined 50 percent in the first half, cooled off in the third quarter. The Red got two more three pointers, but only made 11 points on 33 percent shooting. The Lions, meanwhile, put up 12 points on 36 percent shooting.
Down 51-48 with 10 minutes to go, the Lions, which had four fourth-quarter comebacks on the season, looked for another late surge to capture the Ivy opener.
After a Danielle Jorgenson steal and Dylan Higgins transition layup, the Red were up 58-53 with just over seven minutes left in regulation. Two layups by Lillian Kennedy and a third by Abbey Hsu at the six-minute mark gave the Lions their first lead since the beginning of the second quarter.
A Kate Sramac three, Cornell’s ninth of the day, gave the advantage back to the Red, 61-59, with 5:15 left. That would end up being the last bright spot for the Red.
The Lions, which went 5-for-19 over the first three and a half quarters, made three in a row and five of their last seven, as they went on a 15-5 run to close out the contest. Hsu opened up the floodgates with back-to-back bombs and Sienna Durr made the last two to put Cornell away for good.
Columbia, winners of seven straight at Levien Gymnasium, used its physicality to wear the Red down and make its late run. Cornell entered the game second in total rebounding rate (60 percent) and fourth in rebounding margin (+14.3), but the Lions came away a 10 percent and +4 advantage on the glass.
The Lions also stymied 2019 first team All-Ivy forward Laura Bagwell-Katalinich. The senior from Minneapolis arrived fifth in the league with (15.8) and fourth in rebounding (8.1), but the Lions used a whole team effort to limit her to only nine points and three rebounds.
Hsu, playing in her first Ivy game, and Durr each had a game-high 17 points. Durr, the 2019 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, added six rebounds and three assists. The two went a combined 13-for-24 (54 percent) and 8-for-12 (67 percent) from downtown. Sophomore point guard Mikayla Markham had 13 points and five assists. Senior captain Janiya Clemmons finished with 12 points, seven assists and five steals.
Cornell was led by its New Jersey contingency. First-year Shannon Mulroy from Mount Laurel and senior co-captain Samantha Widmann each totaled 16 points. For Mulroy, the 16 points and four three-pointers were career highs.
The two teams, expected to battle all season long for spots in Ivy Madness, will continue its rivalry next Saturday at 1 p.m. in Ithaca.