It’s a Hsu-in! (No. 25 Princeton-Columbia; 02.24.24)

Jenny Rohl/ALOST


akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

NEW YORK — What new heights are in store for the Columbia women’s basketball team after its historic win on Saturday, its first against a nationally-ranked opponent that puts it in the driver’s seat toward winning a second consecutive regular-season league championship?

The NCAA Tournament? A Final Four?

The moon?

With head coach Megan Griffith and star guard Abbey Hsu, any and all of those seem very possible.

Led by the hard-charging coach and the prolific, play-making senior guard, the Lions secured one of their biggest wins in the history of the program, holding off No. 25 Princeton 67-65 inside of a sold-out Levien Gymnasium in the shadows of Harlem. The victory leveled Columbia and Princeton atop the Ivy League standings with identical 10-1 records in league play, and if each team wins their final two weeks of the season, which they are expected to do, the squads will share the Ivy League regular season championship for a second consecutive season — with their only loss of the season coming against the other.

Hsu, who became the all-time leading scorer in the history of Columbia University basketball in her previous game, went over the 2,000-point plateau during a second half in which she scored 16 of her 26 points, and the three-pointer that gave her 2,002 career points was the first three of 10 consecutive points she scored for Columbia as it opened up a 10-point lead. Hsu’s performance might be the moment she became the favorite to win conference player of the year, over Princeton guard Kaitlyn Chen.

Hsu’s backcourt mate, junior Kitty Henderson, had 11 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals, and her airtight defense on Chen on Princeton’s final possession forced a tough fadeaway shot — and a miss — just before the looseball scramble that occurred right as the final buzzer sounded.

The belief that Griffith and the Lions have built over the past two seasons is sky high. Emphasis on “sky.”

“I believe every word this woman says, even if she says we’re going to the moon tomorrow,” Hsu said about Griffith in the postgame press conference. “She has a plan for everything she does, and it’s gotten us this far. When she was recruiting [Kitty and me], she said this stuff would happen. Anything she says, we trust in 100 percent.”

“Columbia” and “championship” barely appeared in the same book together, let alone the same sentence, before Griffith’s return to Morningside Heights. The 1,000-point scorer and 2007 graduate assumed the role as Lions head coach — after a stint as an assistant at Princeton — in 2016, and, last season, she led the Lions to not only their first-ever conference championship in the 38 years of the program at the end of last season, but to an appearance in the WNIT championship game.

That turnaround coincided with Hsu’s arrival during the COVID season in 2019-20. Since that season, Columbia is a combined 89-28 (.761). Before Hsu, Columbia posted a record of 29-54 (.349) in Griffith’s first three seasons at Columbia.

Clearly, the Hsu fits. And yesterday’s thrilling end, which mirrored the Lions’ overtime victory at home over Cornell in last year’s home finale to clinch that first Ivy League title, was a fitting way to send off the seniors on Senior Day.

“I could not be more proud of [the seniors],” Griffith said. “I said to them that I hope you took a moment to like soak it in, look around at what you built. There’s no environment in our league like this.”

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Tags : Columbia LionsIvy LeaguePrinceton Tigerswomen's college basketball

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