“I love any buzz about our team,” coach Megan Griffith said at her weekly media availability. “Anytime somebody’s talking about our program, it’s a good thing.”
After crushing Arkansas-Pine Bluff by 38 and outlasting Miami in front of its home fans en route to winning the Miami Thanksgiving Tournament title Sunday, there’s definitely positive buzz about Columbia women’s basketball.
Just since this weekend’s games, the team has moved up to No. 9 in the College Insider Mid-Major Top 25. ESPN has listed the Lions as the automatic Ivy League qualifier and a No. 12 seed for the NCAA Tournament.
The Lions (5-2) entered the season with high expectations following an Ivy League Tournament final appearance and a thrilling WNIT quarterfinal run. Starting off with road victories over Memphis, the fifth-ranked team in the AAC, and defending CAA champion Delaware justified the hype.
Unfortunately, the team dropped its home opener to Vanderbilt by 11 in a performance that left the coach “livid.”
Four days removed from that “wake-up moment,” Columbia traveled to South Orange to take on the team that ended their 2021-22 season and defeated Seton Hall, 83-76. Another quick turnaround saw the team in Ames, Iowa, facing the Cyclones and Ashley Joens. Despite losing by 23 to the No. 7/8 team in the country, the Lions made a program-record 18 three-pointers and gained confidence that helped during their competition in South Florida.
Columbia is 52nd in points scored and 17th in three-point shooting. The Lions are also doing a solid job sharing the wealth, with each member of the starting lineup averaging double digits and the entire team 13th nationally in assist rate.
Defensively, the Lions’ strength continues to be their team rebounding, which is 82nd on the offensive glass and 108th on the defensive end.
While the Lions continue to be led by their All-Ivy duo of Kaitlyn Davis (12.1 points, 7.7 rebounds per game) and Abbey Hsu (15 points, 2.6 made threes per game), they are getting noticeable contributions from many others.
Jaida Patrick has continued her strong performance from the latter half of last season, averaging 12 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest. This past weekend in Miami, the senior guard led the team in scoring and had a career-best 25 points in the championship contest. For her effort, she was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, the Ivy League Player of the Week and a member of the NCAA’s Starting Five Players of the Week.
With Noa Comesaña out for the year due to season-ending surgery, Hannah Pratt has been a strong presence on both ends of the floor. The senior forward from Boca Raton, Fla. is averaging 13 points, 2.4 made threes and 5.7 rebounds per game. Pratt led the charge against Memphis and Miami when those teams made late runs and is an emotional sparkplug for a team whose leaders are often less demonstrative.
Late last season, Kitty Henderson was moved to the point to get more offense into the starting lineup. With each contest, the Australian native continues to grow into the role of floor general, adding 4.3 assists per game to complement her 11.4 points.
Lilian Kennedy, Paige Lauder and Nicole Stephens, three players who saw limited action last year, have provided valuable minutes and a combined average of 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds a night. With seniors Carly Rivera and Sienna Durr returning from preseason injuries, the rotation numbers should increase on both sides of the ball.
Now that their lengthier travels are behind them, the Lions can focus on getting a few days of rest so they can finish strong before finals. First up for Columbia are home tilts against Marist and Lafayette before the Light Blue take their redemption tour to Stony Brook and UMass, two of the five teams to defeat them last year.