From Columbia’s first game — a 24–9 loss to the Paterson (N.J.) YMCA in 1900 — to today’s Ivy League play, the Lions have given their fans plenty of indelible moments. To celebrate the return of Columbia basketball, we dug into the archives for some hoops highlights every fan should know. Here’s what we compiled before the final buzzer!
Led by George Gregory CC 1931, the first Black player to be selected All-American, and sharp-shooting set shot artist Lou Bender CC 1932, LAW 1935, Columbia wins consecutive Eastern Intercollegiate League (forerunner to the Ivy League) championships.
Walt Budko ’43, SEAS’47 wins All-Eastern League honors for the fourth consecutive year as he leads the Lions to a 21–1 regular-season record and a berth in the NCAA tournament, where they lost to Kentucky and Michigan at Madison Square Garden.
With John Azary ’51, Jack Molinas ’53 and Bob Reiss ’52 leading the way, the Lions win all 22 regular season games by an average margin of 21.1 points to post the only undefeated season in school history. Columbia was ranked second, third and fifth in the three major national postseason polls despite losing to Illinois 79–71 in the NCAA tournament. It was an 85–45 rout of previously unbeaten Cornell on December 6, 1950, that put Columbia on the national basketball map.
Despite having lost their previous three games, the Lions entered the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden and beat West Virginia 98–71, Louisville 74–67 and St. John’s 60–55 to capture the championship of what was at the time the foremost midseason tournament in the country.
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY COLUMBIA ATHLETICS
Heyward Dotson ’70, LAW’76 scores 32 points as the Lions beat La Salle 83–69 for the only NCAA tournament win in school history. The following weekend, Columbia was eliminated by Davidson in overtime 61–59 and then beat St. Bonaventure 95–75 in a consolation game.
As the College becomes coeducational, the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium is formed to permit Barnard students to compete alongside Columbia women under the Columbia banner. The first Columbia women’s basketball game is played on November 20, 1984, and the Lions beat John Jay College 74–20 en route to a 19–7 season.
Ellen Bossert ’86 scores 39 points in an 83–82 victory over New Rochelle to set the Columbia women’s single-game scoring record. Bossert scores 38 points in the season finale against Buffalo State two weeks later and finishes the campaign with an average of 22.1 ppg. She and Ula Lysniak BC’87 lead the team to a 21–6 record, the most wins in school history.
After two seasons in NCAA Division III, where Barnard had competed, the Columbia women move up to Division I and begin competing in the Ivy League this season. In their first Ivy game, the Lions travel to Ithaca and defeat Cornell 65–58 on January 10, 1987.
Columbia’s women outlast Penn 114–111, the combined total of 225 points being the most ever scored in a Columbia basketball game, men or women.
Buck Jenkins ’93 scores 47 points in a 92–77 win at Harvard to set the Columbia men’s single-game scoring record. Jenkins finished his career with 1,767 points, the highest total in school history.
Alex Sachare ’71 is a former Spectator sports editor, Associated Press pro basketball editor and CCT editor-in-chief who has written, edited or contributed to many books on basketball.
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