NEW YORK - The Columbia women’s basketball team (2-21, 0-9 Ivy League) is preparing for its final home weekend of the 2011-12 season, as the Lions will host Yale and Brown, Friday, February 24 and Saturday, February 25. Both games are scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. Saturday’s game will mark the final game in Levien Gymnasium for senior co-captains Jazmin Fuller and Melissa Shafer, and the duo will be honored before tip off for their four years of dedication to the Columbia women’s basketball program. 

The Lions suffered two tough losses at home last weekend, as Columbia fell to Princeton on Friday, 86-46, and then to Penn on Saturday, 61-41. Junior Tyler Simpson led the Lions in scoring both nights, with 10 points against the Tigers and 12 against the Quakers. Senior Jazmin Fuller added a career-high nine points against Penn.

Coming into the 2011-12 season, the Lions held an advantage over the Bulldogs, as Columbia had won three straight against Yale, including a 48-42 thriller at Yale in 2011. But the Bulldogs hold the all-time lead, 35-16, including a win over the Lions just two weeks ago. 

Brown is another team that led the Lions all-time, but had struggled in recent years. The Bears hold a 36-15 advantage over Columbia, but the Lions have won seven of the last nine. Brown has the most recent advantage, however, as the Bears beat the Lions in overtime two weeks ago. 

Yale currently stands at second in the Ivy League, with a 7-3 record against Ancient Eight schools. The Bulldogs are also near the top of the League in several statistical categories. Yale is second in scoring offense and free throw percentage, as the Bulldogs are shooting 74% from the line as a team. They’re the top team in three point field goal percentage, at 32.3%, and lead the league in 3PFG made. They’re also the top team in the Ivy League in assists, with a 14.3 assists per game average. 

Megan Vasquez, who had a career-high 28 points against the Lions last time out, leads Yale with a 15.7 points per game average. Janna Graf is second on the team in scoring, with 10.6 ppg, and leads the team in rebounds with a 5.8 rebounds per game average. 

Most recently, Yale split at home with Dartmouth and Harvard, beating the Big Green, 66-48, before falling to Harvard, 71-51.

Brown sits at fourth in the Ivy League with four games left to play, as the Bears are 6-4, 15-9 overall. Brown had a split last weekend as well, but in the opposite direction, as they beat Harvard at home in a nail-biter, 58-55, before falling to Dartmouth by just five points on Saturday, 57-52. 

Sheila Dixon leads Brown in scoring and rebounds, with a 13.5 ppg average, and 6.3 rebounds per game. Hannah Passafuime is next in scoring and third in rebounding, with 12.4 points per game, and 5.0 rebounds per game. Lindsay Nickel adds 5.1 rebounds per game, along with 9.3 points per game. 

Brown and Yale were two of the toughest losses the Lions suffered this season. On the road in Providence, Columbia led with just over a minute remaining, and a last-second missed layup sent the game into overtime. There, the Lions saw Brown score eight points in under a minute to take the win, 72-63. The next night at Yale, Columbia led the home team by as much as 12 points in the first half, but couldn’t stop the Bulldogs in the second half, falling 73-59. 

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 set a new program record in three pointers attempted last weekend, and she’s just three made shots away from tying the program record in three pointers made. 

1. Emily Roller (1995-99) 161
2. Melissa Shafer (2008-Present) 158
3. Megan O’Neill (1999-03) 120
4. Sue Altman (2002-05) 119
5. Susan Kern (2001-05) 118

1. Melissa Shafer (2008-Present) 473
2. Emily Roller (1995-99) 467
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 16.3 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 11 of the last 12 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 11.8 ppg average, and shooting .453 from the field. She’s also ranked 10th in the Ivy League in PPG, and fifth 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. 

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 seventh in the Ivy League in assists per game, with a 2.6 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 Hawaii 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.