The women’s basketball team could have opened its season strong with a pair of nonconference games this weekend against Long Island University and University of Vermont, but the Blackbirds and the Catamounts had other plans.
The Lions began their season by dropping the home opener against Long Island University, 53-42 on Friday afternoon and lost 46-40 to Vermont on Sunday.
The contest ended up being a tale of two halves, with Columbia holding a 25-19 advantage over the Blackbirds at the end of the first period. But the Blackbirds came into the second half trying to run on the Lions, who appeared to have lost the energy that propelled them to the early lead.
“They started hitting their shots,” junior forward Courtney Bradford, who finished the day shooting 3-12 from the field, said of LIU’s second-half scoring. “Some of our shots weren’t falling that typically do fall, which happens, and they started hitting their shots that they weren’t making the first half.”
The Lions’ flat-footed second-half play enabled LIU to gain a sound advantage on the boards and establish an effective half-court offense.
“They kept getting shots that we weren’t prepared for. We were just having a lot of defensive lapses,” senior guard/forward Tyler Simpson said.
Leading the offensive charge for the Blackbirds was sharpshooter Krystal Wells, who netted five out of six three-pointers and ended the game with 22 points.
“We knew Krystal Wells was their primary three-point shooter and we just lost her way too often in the second half,” Columbia head coach Paul Nixon said.
Following the loss against Long Island, Vermont was able to stifle the Lions’ offense on Sunday, keeping Simpson to a team-high 14 points in the loss.
Columbia sophomore guard Caitlyn Unsworth sank three of her 11 three-pointers, totaling nine points in the contest, and senior guard Brittany Simmons brought down eight boards to lead the Lions in rebounding.
All too often, though, Columbia’s shots were taken off balance or fading away from the basket, which drastically dropped the team’s field goal percentage over the two games. The Light Blue shot 33 percent in both games, showing what Nixon referred to as poor shot selection.
“That’s one of the things we addressed in the locker room,” he said. “We would be in the position to take good shots, but we wouldn’t always necessarily take a good shot when we got the ball in that position.”
The Lions weren’t helped by a pair of injuries that have followed the Lions from the off-season into their early season play. Junior guard Taylor Ward sat out both games and Simpson saw reduced minutes.
“I sprained my ankle two weeks ago, so I’m kind of getting right back into it,” Simpson said. “I just started playing on Tuesday so they didn’t want to chance anything too much, because it is still swollen so they limited my minutes.”
Simpson’s minutes did see a slight boost from the LIU game to the Vermont contest. Against the Blackbirds, she played just over half the game, but against the Catamounts, she saw 32 minutes of court time.
These injuries, along with some early foul trouble, allowed for a unique opportunity for the Light Blue freshmen get some playing time.
“We knew that Sara [Mead] was going to be one of the first guards subbed in, and we knew that Bailey [Ott] was going to be on the floor early,” Nixon said. “Bailey was going to be Tyler’s primary sub, but they also have the ability to play together, which you’ll probably see more of later this season. We knew they were going to play, but it had more to do with Tyler’s condition than with anything.”
The Lions will try to bounce back from their early losses when they host Wagner on Wednesday.