NEW YORK — Ciaja Harbison scored 27 points and helped spark a second-half rally as Vanderbilt remained undefeated by beating Columbia 74-63 on Sunday afternoon at Levien Gymnasium.
Harbison finished 9 of 13 from the field and 9 of 12 from the free throw line as the Dores handed Columbia (2-1) its first loss. The graduate transfer added seven assists and four steals in 36 minutes played.
Vandy improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2014-15. It’s the first time the Dores have started a season 3-0 with two of the wins coming on the road since 2006-07, when they beat Colorado and Western Kentucky on the road and Dartmouth at home.
Facing a veteran Columbia team coming off its best season in school history, Vandy struggled with turnovers early to fall behind in the first quarter. Columbia embarked on a 10-0 run, scoring in transition and outrebounding the Dores, to take a 15-4 lead.
Vandy regrouped after a timeout and got more aggressive on both ends of the court to cut the deficit to 22-14 by the end of the quarter.
Graduate transfer Marnelle Garraud caught fire in the second quarter, draining three 3-pointers in three attempts, to help the Dores continue to rally. Harbison’s steal and acrobatic layup brought Vandy to within a point before Garraud gave the Dores a 37-36 lead with a 3.
Columbia’s Nicole Stephens answered with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Lions a 39-37 advantage at halftime.
Harbison took over for Vandy in the third quarter. She launched a personal 9-0 run, including three layups in a transition, to give the Dores their first lead since 2-0 at 48-47.
After Columbia moved back in front, Harbison found Garraud on the wing for a 3 and then hit two free throws to put the Dores on top 58-54 entering the fourth quarter.
Vandy expanded the lead to double digits for the first time on a reverse layup through two defenders by Yaubryon Chambers. The Dores limited Columbia to just 2 of 17 shooting in the fourth quarter, with the Ivy League squad going more than six minutes without its first field goal.
Vandy put the game out of reach when Harbison found Sacha Washington inside on a lob pass with the shot clock about to expire. Washington’s 3-point play pushed the advantage back to double digits for good.
Washington had 11 points, five rebounds and four blocks while Garraud scored 12 points.
Kaitlyn Davis led Columbia in scoring with 24 points. But Vandy limited Columbia junior guard Abbey Hsu, a Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year Preseason Watch List nominee, to just five points on 2 of 13 shooting.
The Lions shot only 34 percent from the field overall and missed 14 free throws (11 of 25) while Vanderbilt was 22 of 29 from the line.
Harbison transferred to Vandy with a reputation for scoring, and the Louisville native has delivered as advertised.
Her 27-point outing followed a 28-point performance in Vandy’s season-opening road win over Western Kentucky, when she was equally as efficient, going 7 of 8 from the field and 12 of 14 from the free throw line against the Lady Toppers.
The Dores were able to reconnect with a program alumna on Saturday when NYU assistant coach Nettie Respondek spoke with the team at practice. Respondek played at Vandy from 1996-98, helping the Dores reach two NCAA Sweet 16s and one Elite Eight. The former Miss Texas Basketball and Gatorade Texas Player of the Year graduated from Vanderbilt in 1998 with a bachelor of science degree in human and organizational development and earned her master’s degree in human development counseling in 2000.
Vanderbilt improved to 2-0 all-time against Columbia. The only prior meeting between the programs came in December of 2019, when Vandy beat the Lions 72-51 in Nashville.
Up Next: The Dores return to Nashville for a three-game homestand at Memorial Gymnasium, beginning Tuesday against Tarleton State at 11 a.m. CT (SEC Network+).
Tickets: Students will continue to receive free admission to all home basketball games. In addition, single-game sales, mini-plans and group ticket options are available. To view the promotional schedule, click here.