NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – Senior Taylor Ward had her best all-around game of the season, shooting 5-of-11 from the field for 12 points, dishing out four dimes and tying her career-high on the defensive end with six steals, but Iona came away with an 83-67 victory Monday night at the Hynes Center.
Junior Damika Martinez had a historic night for the Gaels, scoring a single-game program record 42 points on 17-of-22 shooting. Tori Oliver recorded a Columbia-best 13 points and Carolyn Gallagher scored a career-high nine points.
Columbia converted on its early opportunities to keep the game close, including senior Taylor Ward finding a streaking Courtney Bradford for two, while Oliver and Miwa Tachibana each knocked down jumpers. Iona took control after the first media timeout, stinging together a 14-4 run the put the Gaels ahead 26-10 at the midpoint of the half.
The Lions looked to get back into the action, relying on their inside-out game. Bradford first found Tachibana for a jumper from the right wing and then set up Sara Mead for a trey from the left corner at the 7:49 mark. That Mead 3-pointer kicked off a 12-2 run for Columbia that included another from long range from the sophomore and back-to-back scores from Ward to pull the Lions with eight, 34-26, with 4:09 remaining in the period.
The Gaels though continued to score at high rate, and closed out the half with a 12-8 stretch that Damika Martinez punctuated with a jumper from the free throw line at the buzzer. Martinez was 11-of-16 in the first 20 minutes for 26 points, while Iona as a team shot 57.6 percent from the field. Ward led Columbia at the intermission with eight points, while Mead and Carolyn Gallagher tallied six.
Tachibana scored the first points of the second half, but Martinez continued to fire on all cylinders, hitting consecutive triples to extend the Gaels’ lead to 52-34 just one minute into the half. Oliver responded with five straight points of her own for the Lions, converting on an and-one attempt and a close-range jumper.
Martinez, the reigning MAAC Player of the Year, was relentless though, finding the bottom of the net on multiple possessions through the first six minutes of the half, extending Iona’s lead to as many as 26. First-year Carolyn Binder gave the Lions a brief spark, scoring six straight points and Ward followed with a coast-to-coast lay-in off a steal to cut the lead to 76-58 with 7:07 left to play.
The Lions were unable to continue to feed off the momentum, coming only as close 16 points the remainder of the half.
Columbia will take the next 12 days off from competition during the exam period before picking back up on Dec. 21 with a trip to Kennesaw State to take on the Owls at 2 p.m.