|Score by Quarter|
|Points||Camille Zimmerman (26)||Victoria Vivians (23)|
|Rebounds||Camille Zimmerman (12)||Teaira McCowan (10)|
|Assists||Camille Zimmerman (4)||Jazzman Holmes (8)|
|Steals||Camille Zimmerman (3)||Victoria Vivians (3)|
|Blocks||Paige Tippet (2)||Five tied (1)|
CANCUN, Mexico — Columbia hung right with one of the nation’s top women’s basketball teams for the first 25 minutes on Friday. However, No. 7/3 Mississippi State eventually pulled away, 90-54, on day two of the Cancun Challenge from the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya.
Columbia (2-4) hit 4 of 7 from 3-point range through the opening 20 minutes and was holding Mississippi State (5-0) to just 38-percent shooting. The Lions scored the game’s first five points and led for the opening 3:43. MSU didn’t’ take its first lead until halfway through the period, but Columbia went shot for shot with the Bulldogs from there. Zimmerman converted a 3-point play to tie the game right back up. After Mississippi State regained a five-point advantage, rookie Riley Casey connected from deep and Zimmerman scored on a reverse layup in transition to level the score at 20.
The Lions played the defending national finalists to six ties in the first half, including a 27-all score following sophomore Stephanie Flynn’s 3-pointer just four minutes before halftime. Mississippi State (5-0) used those final four minutes to go on a 10-0 run, but Zimmerman brought the deficit back to single digits, 37-29, on a jumper in the final seconds.
Columbia hung around for the first five minutes of the second half, but Mississippi State connected on nine straight shot attempts to pull away. A barrage of 3-pointers on three consecutive offensive trips turned it into a 23-point game, 66-43, and the Lions were never able to recover. MSU’s cushion reached 30 at the 6:56 mark of the fourth quarter and the Bulldogs outscored the Lions 53-25 on 58-percent shooting in the second half.
“To play with a top team on a neutral site for a half was a great experience for us,” Columbia head coach Megan Griffith said. “We came to this tournament to be challenged. I’m not scared to play [teams like Mississippi State]. I think we’re beginning to understand to approach every game with a winning mindset and attitude. Today, yesterday and tomorrow are only going to prepare us for when we get to the Ivy League.”
Senior Camille Zimmerman showcased her talents by leading all players with 26 points and 12 rebounds. The reigning First Team All-Ivy League selection shot 8 of 17 from the floor and connected on her first 10 free throw attempts before her final one rattled out. Zimmerman filled up the stat sheet with four assists, three steals and a block.
“We came out and were really aggressive in the first half,” Zimmerman stated. “I think the team got better today, especially in the first half. We learned to play defense on hard, attacking drivers and had to guard big post players. Being aggressive, learning how to fight and coming out hard really helped us.”
Preseason First Team All-SEC guard Victoria Vivians scored a team-high 23 points on 9 of 13 shooting for the Bulldogs. Vivians hit 5 of 8 from long range while MSU finished the game 10 for 21 (47.6 pct.) from 3-point land. Teaira McCowan, a 6-7 center who was named SEC Player of the Week on Tuesday, shot 9 of 15 from the field on her way to a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds. Blair Schaefer rounded out the double-figure scorers with 14 points on a 4-for-6 mark from beyond the arc.
Mississippi State came down with 21 offensive boards to outrebound the Lions by nine. They also forced Columbia into 22 turnovers to finish the game with a 23-3 advantage in points off turnovers and an 18-8 edge in second-chance points.
Columbia concludes the Cancun Challenge on Saturday against No. 24 Arizona State. Tip is slated for 1:30 p.m.
- Mississippi State (No. 7 AP Poll) is the highest ranked team Columbia has ever played.
- Columbia had played an SEC opponent just once in program history prior to Friday. The only other game came against Alabama on Nov. 26, 2004.
- Camille Zimmerman passed Nora Beck (1979-83) for fifth all-time at Columbia in career rebounds. Zimmerman now has 701 rebounds.
- Camille Zimmerman passed Kristina Tyer for second in career field goals made. Zimmerman now has 570 field goals and is three behind Kathy Gilbert’s mark of 573 (1987-91).
- Friday marked the first ever meeting between the two programs.