Columbia women’s basketball fell to UMBC 67-56 in its season opener at Levien Gymnasium.
It was an auspicious opening few minutes for the Light Blue (0-1) in head coach Megan Griffith’s return to Morningside Heights. A jumper from sophomore guard Paulina Korner along with three quick points from junior forward Camille Zimmerman handed the Lions an early 5-4 advantage.
But the Retrievers (1-0) quickly wrestled away the lead, and survived a strong second-half Columbia run to prevail on Friday afternoon.
Sophomore Emily Surloff provided the spark for the Light Blue, entering the contest in the third quarter and immediately connecting on three consecutive three-pointers. That trimmed a lead which had been as large as 14 points to just six, at 37-31, with 4:30 left in the period.
UMBC immediately called timeout, and guard Taylor McCarley responded with a pair of jumpers to give the Retrievers a 41-36 lead at the end of three quarters.
Zimmerman opened the final period with a layup and then a three-pointer, trimming it to 44-41 with less than nine minutes remaining. But McCarley drove to the basket with her right hand, and converted the layup to give the Retrievers some more breathing room—at least temporarily.
Zimmerman answered with a turnaround jumper on the right baseline, and then sophomore Abby Lee bottomed a three-pointer from the far corner to tie it 46-46 with 5:18 left in the quarter.
It was the loudest Levien Gymnasium had been all afternoon, but UMBC came down the floor and Pandora Wilson connected on a jumper, triggering an 8-2 run. That included two free throws from McCarley along with two field goals from forward Lakiah Sims, as the Retrievers were able to take control once again.
McCarley ended the day as the standout performer, finishing with a whopping 34 points—including nine in the second quarter to match the Lions’ entire total as a team. In fact, Columbia shot just 3-for-14 in period as the Retrievers built a 32-20 halftime lead that they ultimately didn't relinquish.
Senior forward Tori Oliver managed just two shots in that period, as part of a difficult day from the field. She scored just one point on 0-for-8 shooting, stymied by UMBC’s defense throughout the afternoon.
“It was not a typical Tori outing in her performance,” Griffith said. “I think Tori does a lot for us, and has shown a lot of consistency that’s earned her the spot that she has and the recognition that she’s gotten. UMBC knew that Tori is pretty feisty off the dribble, and they pounced on her pretty early.”
Meanwhile, Zimmerman finished with a team-high 22 points and 10 rebounds, as the Lions suffered their first season-opening loss in three years.
“I do think we had pregame, first-game jitters,” Griffith said. “For me, it’s just moving forward, we’ve got to make sure that we’re doing that way earlier. We get our energy kind of focused and dialed in from the beginning, and not play catch up later.”