NEW YORK - The Columbia women’s basketball team (3-24, 1-12 Ivy League) will hit the road for the final game of the 2011-12 season, closing out the year in Ithaca, N.Y.. The Lions will end the year with a game against travel partner Cornell, Tuesday, March 6. The game is slated to tip-off at 7 p.m.

The Lions struggled on the road in the final weekend of Ivy League play, as Columbia fell at Harvard Friday, 88-64, and against Dartmouth in New Hampshire, 87-52. The Harvard game saw four Columbia players in double figures for the first time this season, as Taylor Ward and Melissa Shafer led scoring with 12 points, while Tyler Simpson added 11, and first-year Campbell Mobley had a career-high 10 points. Against Dartmouth, Simson led scoring with 18 points, while Ward had 12 points, and Mobley had seven points and a career-high eight rebounds. 

The series between Columbia and Cornell has picked up the pace in recent years. The Big Red lead the all-time series, 38-23, but Columbia has won five of the last eight meetings. In 2010-11, Columbia won in the Ivy League season opener, 61-54 in Levien Gymnasium, while Cornell won the second game of the series in Ithaca, 53-50, in a game that saw Kathleen Barry miss a last second game-winner.

The Lions lost a tough matchup to the Big Red at home in January, 54-44. Simpson led scoring for the Lions with 13 points, while Shafer had seven points and four steals. Courtney Bradford led Columbia on the boards with a game-high 12 rebounds.

Cornell is 11-16 overall, 5-8 in the Ivy League, and will be looking to end on a strong note, as the Big Red will celebrate their seniors before Tuesday’s game. The Big Red are coming off a tough road weekend as well, as they lost to Dartmouth, 55-48, and Harvard, 65-59 on the road. 

Cornell has two athletes averaging over 10 points a game. Clare Fitzpatrick leads the team with a 10.7 ppg average, while Allyson DiMagno is at 10.4 ppg on the season. Maka Anyanwu is next for the Big Red in scoring, at 7.8 ppg. DiMagno is also the team’s leading rebounder, at 7.3 rpg. 

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Senior Melissa Shafer, who led the team in scoring for the first half of the season, recently became Columbia’s all-time best perimeter shooter. Shafer set a new program record in three pointers attempted three weeks ago, and Friday night at Harvard, she became the all-time leader in three-pointers made, with 163 career treys. 

1. Melissa Shafer (2008-Present) 163
2. Emily Roller (1995-99) 161
3. Megan O’Neill (1999-03) 120
4. Sue Altman (2002-05) 119
5. Susan Kern (2001-05) 118

1. Melissa Shafer (2008-Present) 494
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 17.6 points per game average in February. 

The Lawrenceville, N.J. native has led the Lions in scoring in 12 of the 14 games played since January 1. Since earning her first start of the season in December, Simpson has started every one of Columbia’s last 16 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 15 of the last 16 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 12.7 ppg average, and shooting .461 from the field. She’s also ranked seventh in the Ivy League in PPG, and leads the Ivy League in field goal %.

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).

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. 

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.