NEW YORK – The Columbia women’s basketball team played an inspiring brand of basketball Saturday night, scoring more field goals, 22-21, and winning the battle of the boards, 32-30, against visiting Penn, but the Quakers used 24 made free throws to slip past Columbia, 70-63, on Play 4Kay night at Levien Gymnasium.
A total of 758 fans came out to support the women’s basketball team on Play 4Kay night, a women’s basketball initiative to raise awareness and funds for cancer research on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond. It is a night to join together as a community to celebrate survivors. Columbia women’s basketball has participated in Play 4Kay since the 2007-2008 season and has raised $26,270 for breast cancer research.
The heavily pink-colored home crowd witnessed a career-best 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting from senior Courtney Bradford. The Alpharetta, Ga., native filled up the stat sheet with eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals. Bradford’s 24 points is even more remarkable as she did it against Penn’s Sydney Stipanovich, who is tops in the Ivy League and fourth in the nation with 65 blocks.
Penn got out in front early on the Lions, leading by 11 with less than eight minutes left in the first half. Bradford and first-year Carolyn Binder sparked a late resurgence for the Lions, as Bradford laid in an easy two and Binder followed with a triple the next time down the floor.
The momentum continued in the Lions’ favor late in the half when Taylor Ward swiped the ball from Alyssa Baron and fed Amara Mbionwu on the break to cut the deficit to just four, 30-26, with 1:38 left. Junior Miwa Tachibana would connect on a jumper with seven seconds left to send the Lions to the locker room trailing by just three, 33-30.
It took just 86 seconds of action in the second half for the Lions to even the score, as first-year Tori Oliver knocked down a pair of free throws and classmate Carolyn Gallagher converted on a jumper. Penn rallied though, putting together a 10-1 run that shifted the scoreboard back in its favor for the remainder of the half.
The Lions did not go down without a fight, mounting an 11-3 run that featured six points from Bradford and another trey from Binder, to get the Lions within four, 57-53, with 3:47 remaining. Penn converted on its numerous free throw chances down the stretch to close out the victory.
Gallagher matched her career-best with 10 points, while playing a career-high 32 minutes. Baron led all scorers with 25 points.
Columbia begins a four-game road swing on Friday, Feb. 14 when it visits Harvard. Game-time in Boston is slated for 7 p.m.