NEW YORK - The Columbia women's basketball team is hitting the road for the second half of the Penn/Princeton travel match-up this weekend. The Lions will take on Penn at the Palestra in Philadelphia, Friday, January 27 at 7 p.m. Columbia will be looking for its first Ivy League win of the season, along with the first road win of the year against the Quakers. 

Despite out-rebounding the Big Red, Columbia women’s basketball dropped its second Ivy League game of the season, losing to Cornell, 54-44 last Saturday. Junior Tyler Simpson led the Lions in scoring with 13 points, while Courtney Bradford tied her season high with 12 rebounds, including seven offensive boards. 

Penn is trying to match its Ivy League season to the success it had non-conference, as the Quakers had the best non-conference season since 2004-05, going 7-7. Penn dropped its first Ivy League game of the season to Princeton two weeks ago, falling to the 3-0 Tigers, 83-48.

Penn is led by sophomore Alyssa Baron, who is averaging 15.9 points per game and 4.9 rebounds per game. Baron is second in the Ivy League in scoring, and also leads the team in assists, with 33 so far this season. Senior Jess Knapp, the team’s leading rebounder and third leading scorer, has missed the last five games due to injury, allowing Columbia a better shot at the boards. First-year Kara Bonenberger is a four-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week this season, and is averaging 9.0 ppg and ties for the team high with 6.2 rpg. 

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The University of Pennsylvania leads the all-time series, 32-17, but six of the last nine games have been wins for Columbia. Head Coach Paul Nixon is 6-6 in his Columbia career against the Quakers. The Lions will have an uphill battle to fight in Philadelphia, as the team is 4-22 against Penn in the Palestra all-time. In 2010-11, the two teams split, as Penn won at home, 60-40, but Columbia won in Levien Gymnasium just two weeks later, 61-54. 

Attentive fans may have noticed that Columbia’s Ivy League schedule is different from past years: the Lions, who normally open with travel partner Cornell faced Princeton first, and the traditional Penn-Princeton weekend has been split apart. Why the change? Princeton’s final exam schedule conflicted with the Ivy League season, and shifted the whole league around. The Lions played at Princeton, January 15, and at Penn, Friday, January 27th in Philadelphia. Columbia hosted Cornell Saturday, January 21st, and end the season with an early March trip to Ithaca, as they will close the year at Cornell, Tuesday, March 6th. 

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 has had her Columbia coming out party this January, as her statistics have skyrocketed. Earning her first two starts of the season against Princeton and Cornell, Fuller has 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).

First-year Campbell Mobley saw her first collegiate action against Cornell, after sitting out the entire first semester with an injury. Though she got just one minute of playing time, Mobley made it worth it, scoring her first collegiate points on a jumper from outside the paint. 

Junior Brittany Simmons has stepped into an important role for the Lions after battling injuries for two years. Simmons, who played limited minutes in her first year with injuries, missed the entire 2010-11 season. But she’s back, and better than ever! Since her return, she’s started 11 of 16 games for the Lions, and is averaging 5.3 points per game and 3.5 rebounds per game. She’s also sopping up playing time, as Simmons averages 20.6 minutes per game. 

Senior Melissa Shafer, who’s led the team in scoring throughout the season, is currently setting her sights on Columbia’s all-time perimeter shooters. Shafer is currently second all-time in both three-pointers made and three-pointers attempted. She’s 18 3PM and 36 3PA away from Columbia’s all-time records.

1. Emily Roller (1995-99) 161
2. Melissa Shafer (2008-Present) 143
3. Megan O’Neill (1999-03) 120
4. Sue Altman (2002-05) 119
5. Susan Kern (2001-05) 118
6. Megan Griffith (2003-07) 115
7. Brittney Carfora (2006-08) 109
8. Shawnee Pickney (1997-01) 102
9. Michele Gage (2004-08) 100
10. Jennifer Beubis (1987-91) 99
Rose Jackson (1995-99) 99

1. Emily Roller (1995-99) 467
2. Melissa Shafer (2008-Present) 431
3. Shawnee Pickney (1997-01) 383
4. Megan O’Neill (1999-03) 376
5. Megan Griffith (2003-07) 356
6. Sue Altman (2002-05) 349
7. Rose Jackson (1995-99) 346
8. Susan Kern (2001-05) 345
9. Brittney Carfora (2004-08) 319
10. Katrina Cragg (2005-09) 312

Tyler Simpson had one of the best games of her career against Morgan State, January 11, as the junior set career highs in five different categories. Simpson had a career-high 20 points, played a career-high 30 minutes, and also had career bests in Field Goals Made (7), Field Goals Attempted (20) and Free Throws Attempted (10). Simpson also had a season-high in Free Throws Made with six, just short of her career high of eight. Most recently, she led the Lions in scoring against Cornell, with 13 points. It was her sixth game in double figures this season, and she’s started the last seven of the team’s games. 

Though the Lions suffered a tough loss against Princeton, there was one bright spot for Columbia: the team brought down a season-high 29 defensive rebounds against the Tigers.

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. 

The Lions exceeded the expectations of last season’s Ivy League preseason poll, as the team finished tied for fourth in the conference, after being projected to finish fifth. This year, the Lions will look to do the same as the media has picked them to finish tied for sixth in the Ivy League. Princeton, who went 13-1 in Ivy League play last year, garnered 14 of the 17 first-place votes to come in atop the poll while Harvard (three first place votes),Yale and Penn round out the top four.