NEW YORK – Senior Taylor Ward led the Columbia offense with 14 points and junior Amara Mbionwu pulled down a season-high 12 rebounds, but a strong second half from the visiting Bryant Bulldogs gave them a 68-47 victory at Levien Gym Monday evening.
The Columbia offense struggled to find its rhythm throughout the first 10 minutes of action, finding itself in a 17-4 hole, with senior Courtney Bradford accounting for all four Lions’ points. Turnovers were a key contributor to the creation of the deficit with the Lions giving the ball away 10 times.
A quick 6-0 run that spanned just 77 seconds for Columbia cut the gap to just seven, 17-10. First-year Tori Oliver began the scoring with her first two points of the game and then Sara Mead got the Columbia crowd into it when she converted a four-point play after being fouled on a successful 3-pointer from the right corner.
Bryant did its best to retake control of the game, going back ahead by 13 points with just over seven minutes remaining in the half, but Columbia’s defense buckled down, setting the stage for a 15-2 surge in favor of the home team. Mbionwu got things going for the Lions with three points from the charity stripe and Bradford followed that up with a layup at the 5:03 mark. Ward evened the score at 26-26 with five straight, converting an easy two in transition and then draining a triple with three minutes left before the break.
After a bucket from Morgan Olander that put the Bulldogs back up by two, Ward gave the Lions their first advantage with another basket from long range, sending the game to the intermission with Columbia ahead, 29-28.
Ward led all scorers at the half with 10 points, while also grabbing four rebounds. Naana Ankoma-Mensa tallied eight for the Bulldogs.
Leading the charge out of the gate for the Lions was a familiar face, as Ward knocked down a jumper from the top of the key. Bryant stuck with the Lions though, with the game heading into the first media with Columbia up 37-36. The Bulldogs then put together a 9-3 run that created a 47-39 lead with under 11 minutes left.
Oliver put an end to the run, connecting from inside the paint, but the Bulldogs came right back with another 9-0 rush. Bryant continued to keep the pressure on throughout the half, holding the Lions to just six points over the final minutes to close out the win.
Columbia continues its homestand on Sunday, Jan. 5 when it hosts Stony Brook at 2 p.m.