Cal State Fullerton Rallies Late to Spoil Education Day, 61-58


NEW YORK — Columbia led for the majority of three quarters but could not hold off Cal State Fullerton as the Titans rallied in the final 10 minutes for a 61-58 women's basketball win early Wednesday afternoon at Levien Gymnasium. The game tipped at 11 a.m. and was played in front of a program-record home crowd of 2,602 fans on Columbia's 11th annual Education Day. Elementary school students representing 19 New York City institutions were in attendance.

After trailing by as many as eight points late in the third quarter, Cal State Fullerton mounted a comeback with a 10-0 run sparked by two Hannah Thompson 3-pointers. The visiting Titans took their first lead since the opening minutes of the game, 47-45, when Thompson swished a second consecutive 3-pointer with 7:28 to play. From that point on, the teams traded leads.

A turnaround jumper from first-year Sienna Durr gave Columbia a 53-52 lead with 2:18 to play, but Jade Vega answered when she drove the lane to put the Titans back on top with two of her game-high 19 points. With less than 30 seconds remaining, Raina Perez hit a clutch 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock to give Cal State Fullerton a commanding 59-54 lead.

The Lions still had opportunities. Rookie Madison Hardymissed a shot, grabbed her own rebound and converted a jumper to cut the deficit to three points with 20 seconds to go. After Vega converted a free throw, Clemmons followed with a jumper with 6.9 ticks left to pull to the Lions within two points, 60-58. Sophomore Riley Casey fouled Perez on the inbounds, who hit the first free throw but missed the second, leaving Columbia one last chance to force overtime

Without a timeout, first-year Lilian Kennedy dribbled up the backcourt and found Hardy on the left wing. The fellow first-year took one dribble and got off an open shot at the buzzer that was no good.

"It's tough and these are the moments you need someone who has been through this," Columbia head coach Megan Griffith said. "The positives are that everyone is getting a lot of experience and they still compete. No matter what you say or what adjustments you make, the bottom line is we had a chance to win at the end of the game."

Columbia was led offensively by junior Janiya Clemmons, who scored a career-high 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting and led all Lions with six rebounds. Hardy added 15 points off the bench and Durr contributed 10. Casey finished with nine points, hitting 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, and three assists.

Vega led the way for Fullerton, doing most of her damage at the free throw line where she was 9-for-11. Thompson finished with 17 points on four 3-pointers. Raina Perez added 10 points and a game-high five assists.

Columbia drained four 3-pointers in building a 29-23 halftime advantage. Hardy scored eight first half points while Durr, Casey and Clemmons each contributed six apiece.

Taking advantage of the raucous atmosphere, Columbia jumped out to a 16-8 first quarter lead sparked by six points from Durr. The Lions extended their advantage to 21-10 on a jumper by Madison Hardy, but the Titans used a 9-0 run to get back in the game before a Hardy 3-pointer and Clemmons jumper gave Columbia their six-point halftime lead.

"All the credit to Cal State Fullerton," Griffith added. "They adjusted well after the first half and I don't think we were cohesive enough to execute the plan we had set forth."

Fullerton shot 45 percent in the second half after the Lions limited the visitors to just 33 percent in the first. Columbia led for over 33 minutes before the Titans took over down the stretch.

Columbia is back in action on next Tuesday, Dec. 11, at Fordham. Tipoff in the Bronx is at 6 p.m.

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