NEW YORK - The Columbia women’s basketball team (2-19, 0-7 Ivy League) will host its annual breast cancer fundraiser Saturday evening against Penn. In association with the WBCA’s Play 4Kay, the nationwide effort will see half of all ticket sales donated to the Herbert Irving Columbia Comprehensive Cancer Center Breast Cancer Program. Columbia has raised over $17,000 for breast cancer research over the past four years. Friday, the Lions will host league-leading Princeton at 7 p.m. 

Columbia is coming home off a tough road weekend that saw the Lions fall to Brown in overtime Friday, and drop a game to Yale after leading by 12 points in the first half. Junior Tyler Simpson had a career-high 26 points against the Bears, while Simpson and Courtney Bradford both had double-doubles against the Bulldogs, with 14 points apiece, and 10 and 12 rebounds respectively. 

Princeton has the advantage in the all-time series, as the Tigers lead the series 36-16. The series dates back to 1985-86, when Columbia was still a Division III school. Columbia won the first-ever match-up, 65-60 on Feb. 11, 1986, but Princeton has won seven straight in recent years, including most recently, a 94-35 win over the Lions in Princeton in January of 2012.

The University of Pennsylvania leads the all-time series, 33-17, including a 23-4 advantage against the Lions in the Palestra. But Coach Paul Nixon has won six of the last 13 matchups, beginning to even the playing field for the Lions. In 2010, the two teams split, with both teams winning at home. Since Columbia fell to Penn 75-50 in the Palestra earlier this year, the Lions will be looking to use Levien to their advantage. 

Princeton (17-4, 7-0 Ivy League) rolls into Levien Gymnasium on a 10-game winning streak, including seven Ivy League wins in a row. The Tigers have become not just a force in the league, but also on the national stage a bit. Princeton is currently ranked 29th in the nation in scoring defense, as the Tigers only give up an average of 54.2 points per game. They’re also 49th in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 70 points a game. Junior Niveen Rasheed is one of the main reasons for Princeton’s success. The leading scorer in the Ivy League, Rasheed is also ranked 65th in the nation in points per game (17.0) and 74th in rebounds per game (8.8).

Penn (9-12, 2-5 Ivy League) brings the second-leading scorer in the Ivy League to Levien Gymnasium Saturday, as sophomore Alyssa Baron is averaging 16.0 points per game for the Quakers. She’s the only member of the team in double figures. Penn is 2-5 in the Ivy League, including a 25 points win over the Lions, and also bring four-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week Kara Bonenberger to the table. The key stat for Columbia is that Penn is currently ranked ninth in the nation in three-point percentage defense, at 25.1%, so the Lions’ outside looks could be limited. 

Columbia suffered tough losses to both Princeton and Penn. The Lions lost to Princeton, 94-35, and to Penn, 75-50. Tyler Simpson led scoring for Columbia against the Quakers with 19 points, while Taylor Ward added 10 points in the loss. Both Penn and Princeton scored a season-high in points against the Lions.

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Senior Melissa Shafer, who led the team in scoring for the first half of the season, is currently setting her sights on becoming Columbia’s all-time best perimeter shooter. Shafer is second all-time in both three-pointers made and three-pointers attempted, and she’s 6 3PM and 5 3PA away from sole possession Columbia’s all-time records.

1. Emily Roller (1995-99) 161
2. Melissa Shafer (2008-Present) 156
3. Megan O’Neill (1999-03) 120
4. Sue Altman (2002-05) 119
5. Susan Kern (2001-05) 118

1. Emily Roller (1995-99) 467
2. Melissa Shafer (2008-Present) 463
3. Shawnee Pickney (1997-01) 383
4. Megan O’Neill (1999-03) 376
5. Megan Griffith (2003-07) 356

Tyler Simpson and the calendar year 2012 are getting along just fine, thank you. The junior has seen dramatic improvement in the second half of the season, including multiple career games, and an incredible output. After averaging 8.2 points per game in the months of November and December, Simpson has skyrocketed to the top of Columbia’s offense, averaging 14.2 points per game in the month of January, and an incredible 19.0 points per game average in February. 

The Lawrenceville, N.J. native has led the Lions in scoring in seven of the nine games played since January 1. Since earning her first start of the season in December, Simpson has started every one of Columbia’s last 12 games, and has set new career highs in points (26), minutes (38), field goals made (9), field goals attempted (20), rebounds (10), free throws made (11) and free throws attempted (14). 

She’s scored in double figures in nine of the last 10 games, including a career-high 26 points against Brown, February 10. That 26-point performance was the first time a Lion had scored more than 25 points in a game since Judie Lomax did it at Dartmouth on January 30, 2010. She is leading the Lions with a 11.9 ppg average, and shooting .442 from the field. She’s also ranked 10th in the Ivy League in PPG, and sixth in the league in field goal %.

Sophomore Courtney Bradford had one of the best games of her career against Harvard, February 4. The forward tied her career high with 17 points, and set new career highs in minutes, field goals made and field goals attempted. She also tied her career high in blocks, and set a new season high in rebounds, with 13. 

- Columbia is currently ranked second in the Ivy League in offensive rebounds, with a 13.4 average per game. And sophomore Courtney Bradford is fourth in the league in overall rebounding, and second in the league in offensive rebounds, with a 2.8 rebounds per game average. 

- The Lions have out-rebounded opponents just three times this season, including most recently, against Cornell. The Lions grabbed 38 rebounds, including 21 offensive rebounds, to Cornell’s 28 total rebounds. Courtney Bradford had seven offensive rebounds, matching Cornell’s team total. The December 11 game against the Blackbirds marked the first time this season the Lions out-rebounded their opponents. Columbia notched 38 total rebounds, including 27 defensive rebounds, while LIU had 31 total rebounds. The January 4 game at Lafayette is the other  best effort for the Lions on the boards. Columbia snagged 44 rebounds to the Leopards’ 31, including 24 defensive rebounds to Lafayette’s eight offensive rebounds.  

Senior co-captain Jazmin Fuller had her Columbia coming out party this January, as her statistics skyrocketed. Earning her first two starts of the season against Princeton and Cornell, Fuller averaged 15.75 minutes per game in the month of January, compared to just 5.75 minutes per game in November and December. And her other numbers have gone up as well. In Columbia’s loss to Cornell, Fuller matched her career-high with six points scored, and set new career highs in minutes (22), assists (3), FGM (3) and FGA (6).

Junior guard Taylor Ball is sixth in the Ivy League in assists per game, with a 3.0 assists per game average. And when Ball passes the ball, the Lions win. She had her season-high assist total in the win against Army (7), and nearly matched that in Columbia’s win over Bryant (6). The only time Ball has had more than five assists and the Lions haven’t won was the game against Hawai’i on December 3. 

Columbia has had three different Ivy League Rookies of the Week this year. First-year Amara Mbionwu was the first to earn the honor for the week of Nov. 13, as she averaged 6.5 points and a team-high 8.5 rebounds in two games for the Lions. The next week, Miwa Tachibana took the honor, as she led the Lions in scoring against Wagner. Tachibana was 4-for-7, scoring 11 points. And in January, Caitlyn Unsworth made it 3-for-3, as she was named Rookie of the week, scoring 18 points in two games for the Lions.