NEW YORK - Six Columbia players scored in double figures, led by 16 from sophomore Sara Mead and first-year Carolyn Binder, to propel the Lions past Lehigh Saturday afternoon at Levien Gym, 87-80.
The 87 points is the highest total this season for the Lions, and marks the second time this year Columbia has eclipsed the 80-point mark. Joining Mead and Binder in double figures were Miwa Tachibana (15), Tori Oliver (11), Amara Mbionwu (10) and Taylor Ward (10).
The opening minutes of the game belonged to Lehigh, beginning play with a 10-2 spurt through the first 4:14. The Lions quickly evened things out though, responding with a 10-0 run of their own that featured back-to-back Taylor Ward layups and Mead’s first points, a fast break lay-in and a 3-pointer.
Tachibana sparked a quick 5-0 run at the 7:08 mark when she drilled a trey from long range that was followed by Ward going to the bucket for an easy two off a Mead steal. That run gave Columbia a 29-22 advantage, its widest margin of the game to that point.
Carolyn Gallagher helped the Lions maintain the seven-point lead with a pair of free throws with just under six minutes, but Lehigh was able to chip away and trailed by only two, 44-42, at halftime.
Mead led the Lions offense at the break with 10 points, tied with Lehigh’s Kerry Kinek. Mbionwu posted a balanced eight points and six rebounds to help Columbia outrebound Lehigh, 20-16.
Opposite of the opening half, the Lions were the team to come out strong in the second period. Oliver converted a lay-up just 25 seconds in for Columbia, setting the pace for a 13-4 run in its favor. Oliver would add two more points to her tally, going coast-to-coast off her own steal for an easy basket, while Tachibana would contribute five points to the run.
Lehigh countered with a 6-0 run that featured three layups from a trio of players to cut the gap to just five, 57-52, but that would be as close as the Mountain Hawks would get. Binder put Columbia back ahead by eight with 11:20 remaining when she knocked down a 3-pointer and then pushed the lead to 10 with a transition bucket on the Lions’ next possession.
Columbia’s lead grew to as many as 14 at the 8:31 mark when Tachibana sank her third trey of the game. The Mountain Hawks did their best to keep the contest close through the finals minutes, but were unable to get any closer than six points. Tachibana and Mead helped ensure a Lions’ victory, as each made two free throws down the stretch.
Mbionwu finished the game just two rebounds shy of a double-double with 10 points and eight boards, while Courtney Bradford led the charge on the glass with 10 rebounds. Bradford now has 521 rebounds in her career, the 10th highest total in program history. Lehigh’s Kinek and Katie O’Reilly matched Mead and Binder with 16 points as the game’s leading scorers.
Columbia wraps up December competition Monday night when it hosts Bryant at Levien Gym in a 7 p.m. game.