Memorable Moments in Lions Basketball

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!

1929–30 and 1930–31

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.

DECEMBER 26, 28 and 30, 1967

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.

MARCH 5, 1968

Jim McMillian ’70 scored 40 points or more in a Columbia uniform four times, and went on to play nine seasons in the NBA.


After Columbia and Princeton compile 12–2 league records, a one-game playoff is held at St. John’s to determine the Ivy League champion. The Lions start fast, turn back several rallies by the Tigers and win 92–74, with 37 points and 10 rebounds by Jim McMillian ’70. The victory marks their only Ivy title since the league officially began basketball competition in 1956–57.

MARCH 9, 1968

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.

1977–78 and 1978–79

Alton Byrd ’79, Columbia’s career assists leader, drives to the basket against Penn at Levien Gym.

Alton Byrd ’79, Columbia’s all-time leader with 526 career assists, leads the Lions to Ivy League records of 11–3 and 10–4. A three-time All-Ivy guard, the 5-foot-9- inch Byrd received the 1979 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as the nation’s top collegiate player under 6 feet tall.


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.

FEBRUARY 17, 1986

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.

MARCH 5, 1988

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.

FEBRUARY 15, 1991

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.


Judie Lomax BC’10 twice led the nation in rebounding.

Led by two-time NCAA Division I rebounding champion and Ivy League Player of the Year Judie Lomax BC’10, Columbia’s women compile a 9–5 Ivy record, their first winning season in league play, and an 18–10 overall mark. The 18 total wins and nine Ivy wins are the most for Columbia women since moving up to Division I in 1986.

MARCH 29, 2016

The 2016 CIT-champion Lions cut the nets in Levien Gym.

Columbia beats UC Irvine 73–67 in Levien Gymnasium to win the Postseason Tournament. Led by Maodo Lo ’16 (left), Grant Mullins ’16, Alex Rosenberg ’16 and Luke Petrasek ’17, the Lions compile a 25–10 record, the most wins in one season.


Camille Zimmerman ’18 leads the Lions in career points and rebounds.

Camille Zimmerman ’18 scores 608 points and averages 22.5 ppg, both school records, and is named the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association Women’s Player of the Year for the NYC area. She finishes her career with 1,973 points and 940 rebounds, also school records.

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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.