Sports | Basketball

Lions let first half lead slip in loss to Iona, prepares for next match against St. Francis

Although women’s basketball (1-8) trailed Iona (4-5) 30-26 at halftime Friday night, the team came back to take a 48-40 lead with 12 minutes left in the game. But the Lions couldn’t stop Iona’s Damika Martinez down the stretch, as she rallied her team to a 67-63 victory over the Light Blue. The Lions’ 63 points were a season high, and they managed to recover from a 13-point deficit in the first half. Senior guard Tyler Simpson led the effort with her own season-high 22 points on the night. But the Light Blue’s strong offensive production in the second half ultimately was not enough to counter Martinez’s game-high 34 points, 16 of which she scored in the last 10 minutes of the game. Columbia head coach Paul Nixon credited Martinez’s ability to make tough shots as a reason Iona walked away with the win. “It’s unfortunate in basketball that you can allow one player to beat you, but almost all the shots she made in the last five minutes we had at least two defenders on her,” Nixon said. “There were definitely some games that I felt we lost this season, but tonight I think we got beat by a very good player.” While the Lions struggled defensively to shut down Martinez, they also neglected to take advantage of their offensive opportunities. The Lions made just 10 of their 17 free-throw attempts—a key statistic in a game decided by a four-point margin. It also continues a trend, as the Lions have shot just 53 percent from the charity stripe this season. “When you have opportunities at the line, and it’s either the front end of a 1-1 and you miss it or you go for two shots and you miss them both, it’s like a turnover,” Nixon said. “It becomes an empty possession and we just can’t afford that many empty possessions.” Although the Lions lost another close contest to drop to 1-8 on the year, Nixon and the team hope to build on a strong second-half performance as they look ahead to their matchup against St. Francis (2-5) on Tuesday night. “I just hope that we see that as the norm and not the exception, and we continue to attack the rim the way we did and hit threes the way we did,” Simpson said of the Lions’ second-half performance against Iona. “So hopefully that carries over to the next game.” While St. Francis has only won two games so far this season, they have put up strong performances against Ivy opponents. The Terriers fell 61-60 to Penn on Dec. 5 and lost to Yale in overtime on Saturday. St. Francis is led by forward Sarah Benedetti, who averages 11 points per game. The action starts against St. Francis on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Columbia’s Levien Gymnasium. sports@columbiaspectator.com

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