Columbia women bow out in WNIT Elite Eight loss to Seton Hall, 78-75, ending best season in program history

Columbia sophomore guard Abbey Hsu got off to a hot start in the WNIT Elite Eight after a cold shooting performance in the Sweet 16, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a 78-75 loss to Seton Hall Monday night. (photo by Erica Denhoff)

The best season in Columbia women’s basketball history is over.

Columbia came up on the low end of a see-saw showdown at Levien Gym Monday night, bowing out to Seton Hall, 78-75, in the Elite Eight round of the WNIT.

The Lions’ appearance in the WNIT national quarterfinals came after wins in each of the tournament’s first three rounds – the program’s first postseason wins since it joined Division I in 1986.

But Columbia (25-7, 12-2 Ivy) failed to get key defensive stops down the stretch against Seton Hall (23-12, 12-8 Big East), whose junior guard Lauren Park-Lane belied her name possession after possession by driving past the Lions for layups and trips to the foul line en route to a game-high 29 points and five assists in 40 minutes.

With Columbia trailing 76-75 and 10 seconds left, the Pirates switched to a zone defense that converged on All-Ivy first-teamer Abbey Hsu, forcing a turnover followed by two clutch free throws from sophomore guard Amari Wright at the other end.

Seton Hall had fouls to give, and Wright and Park-Lane each gave one, giving the Lions less time to set up a shot at tying the game. A last-second three-point heave from junior forward Hannah Pratt never came close to finding the bottom of the net, and time ran out on the Lions’ historic run.

The Pirates will face Middle Tennessee State in the WNIT semifinals Thursday.

The visitors took the lead for good with 16 seconds left as Park-Lane hit two free throws to give Seton Hall a 76-75 edge. Park-Lane finished 14-for-14 from the foul line, besting Columbia’s 9-for-16 free-throw showing herself.

A layup by first-year guard Kitty Henderson off an assist from Pratt had given the Lions a 75-74 advantage with 35 seconds to play.

Columbia’s loss came despite a 12-for-28 (42.9%) outing from three-point range, a stark contrast to the 0-for-20 struggle from beyond the arc that held the Lions back in their 54-51 WNIT Sweet 16 win over Boston College at Levien Saturday afternoon.

Henderson led the Lions with 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting and seven assists, while junior guard/forward Kaitlyn Davis posted 15 points on 6-for-14 shooting.

Coming off a nine-point, 3-for-15 shooting field-goal-shooting performance against the Eagles, Hsu started fast Monday night, hitting a triple 35 seconds in and notching eight points, two rebounds and two assists in the first quarter. Hsu finished with 15 points on 5-for-15 shooting from the field.

Columbia trailed 39-35 at halftime and 56-50 after three quarters, surrendering an 11-0 run in the last 3:30 of the third quarter after having mounted an 11-0 run of its own earlier in the period.

Seton Hall’s advantage converting inside trumped Columbia’s hot shooting night, resulting in a 32-28 edge in points in the paint and a 20-for-20 free-throw-shooting clinic that won the evening for the Pirates.

Supporting Columbia was a raucous sell-out crowd that demonstrated fervent support for the program. The first 750 tickets were free, Columbia Athletics announced Sunday, upping that total from 500.

The Lions’ roster should remain virtually intact next season in addition to incoming rookies, setting up the program well to build on its standout 2021-22 campaign.