December 5, 2023
Columbia’s Riley Weiss is learning from — and scoring with — teammate Abbey Hsu
Freshman protégée and senior star combined for 39 points, including Hsu’s game-winner, against Villanova
NEW YORK – There are very few things left in college basketball that Columbia senior guard Abbey Hsu hasn’t done. Hsu is a three-time All-Ivy League selection and, with more than half a season left, already holds the Ivy League record for career 3-pointers. She has led her team deep into the WNIT in two straight years and taken the program to unprecedented heights.
But on Sunday against Villanova, after Hsu converted a 3-point play with 8.7 seconds left to give the Lions the victory, she told reporters it was her first game-winner for Columbia that late in a game.
“To me, it’s kind of a redemption-type thing. I’ve been put in those situations a lot, and this was my first successful go-ahead bucket at the end of a game,” Hsu said. “So that was huge for me.”
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The closest Hsu had come previously was another game-winning and-one as a sophomore, which she made with 31.8 seconds left against Delaware. But after that shot, there were still several possessions to play, so this felt different.
Hsu’s pivotal shot came out of a timeout, with Columbia down by two with 13 seconds left. The Lions have sometimes struggled over the past two seasons to inbound the ball in crucial moments, but senior guard Nicole Stephens found junior guard Cecelia Collins near the elbow, and Hsu darted backdoor from the top of the key. Collins’ pass led Hsu toward the basket, and she made a right-handed shot through contact.
“Best player in the country!” a Columbia fan sitting across from the team’s bench shouted after the ball swished through the net. “Best player in the country!”
Hsu hit the free throw, and all that was left was one defensive stand.
Less than two weeks earlier, the Lions had faced a similar situation against Florida in the Bahamas. Hsu found Collins for a wide-open layup, putting Columbia up by one with one second remaining. But after a timeout, Florida guard Aliyah Matharu hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer over Hsu’s outstretched arms.
Against Villanova, the Lions — especially Hsu — were determined to finish the job. Hsu denied Wildcats star Lucy Olsen the ball on the inbounds pass, forcing Villanova to look for other options. Columbia point guard Kitty Henderson blocked a shot by Villanova guard Bella Runyan, then made a free throw on the other end. When the buzzer finally sounded, a giddy Henderson jumped on Hsu.
“[After] Florida, the game-winner in my face … I felt like I had to redeem myself,” Hsu told ESPN+’s Lance Medow postgame. “And we all knew the ball was going to Lucy … so I just, in my head, [thought], Don’t even let her touch the ball.”
The 77-75 win moved Columbia to 3-0 against BIG EAST teams and 5-4 overall this season, despite playing a challenging nonconference schedule and having eight newcomers. Hsu finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, and 15 of her points came in the second half. None were more memorable than the game-winner, which her teammates rewatched on social media in a joyous postgame locker room.
On the season, Hsu is averaging a career-high 21.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game and has won two Ivy League Player of the Week awards. Despite facing plenty of defensive attention, she is shooting 42.9% from the field and 34.7% from 3-point range, and her effective field goal percentage ranks in the 70th percentile nationally.
Head coach Megan Griffith told reporters earlier this season that Hsu has taken a leap in her ability to impact the game without scoring. Hsu has also become more discerning about how she’s being guarded — and how to exploit it.
“Not just like, ‘I’m getting faceguarded.’ Like, ‘Who is guarding me, and how do I pick on that person?’” Griffith said on Nov. 24. “… So she’s not just going out and executing, but she’s thinking about the matchup now, which … has been really fun to watch.”
With Hsu as their leader, the Lions have excelled offensively this season. They rank in the top six nationally in total 3-pointers made and attempted and in the 84th percentile in points per 100 possessions. According to Griffith, after the Lions lost to Georgia in the Bahamas on Nov. 20, Georgia head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson told Griffith that she’d never used as much man-to-man defense as she had to against Columbia. (This season, Georgia has played zone 60% of the time.)
But it’s not just Hsu stretching defenses and forcing opponents to scheme differently. Waiting in the wings is freshman guard Riley Weiss, who scored more than 2,900 points in six years of high school varsity basketball. She averaged 40.8 points per game as a sophomore and 39.9 as a junior.
“She’s one of the best shooters in the country, right up there with Abbey,” Griffith said on Nov. 13.
Weiss scored 14 points against Stony Brook in her collegiate debut and 18 against Georgia. On the season, she is averaging 8.7 points in 16.3 minutes per game and making 2.1 3-pointers per game on 42.2% shooting. But Griffith is just as impressed with how she’s rounded out her game and picked up concepts defensively since preseason practices started.
Against Villanova, Weiss had 17 points on 5-for-7 3-point shooting, and she was on the floor for Hsu’s game-winning shot, discouraging the Wildcats from collapsing on Hsu. The Wildcats struggled throughout the game with staying attached to the Lions’ 3-point shooters, head coach Denise Dillon said afterward, and Weiss burned them.
Weiss hit two 3-pointers in the second quarter, two more in the third quarter and another with 6:11 left in the fourth. The last one gave Columbia a 65-58 lead, one of its largest of the game, and fired up the home crowd. It also delighted Collins, who was waiting to check in: She rose from a squat in front of the scorer’s table, leaping up and down in celebration.
“In the past, Riley has either been looking for other teammates like Abbey or Kitty to take over or she’d only shoot the obvious shots,” Griffith said postgame. “I thought today she went and got a bucket.”
Weiss has the luxury of learning from Hsu, who is closing in on Columbia’s all-time scoring record for men’s and women’s basketball. “Abbey is a gift for her,” Griffith said, “to learn how to play and what’s the approach [she needs] to take.”
Hsu, too, is relishing being able to mentor Weiss. She and Henderson lit up when they were asked about Weiss after Sunday’s game, and Hsu joked, “That’s my child. I birthed her.”
“It’s no doubt in my mind she’s gonna be in the record books at Columbia,” Hsu added. “And I’m just so happy I could play this year with her and kind of teach her some things. And she’s got a bright future and she’s already showing it.”
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Weiss won Ivy League Rookie of the Week on Monday, combining with Hsu to sweep the weekly awards after the Villanova win. Yet there is still a lot of room for Weiss to grow: She rarely gets to the foul line and takes only about two 2-pointers per game, so diversifying her shot selection would help as teams start to scout her more aggressively. (Hsu has gone through a similar process over her four seasons.)
At the same time, though, Hsu is a big reason why opponents can’t always run Weiss off the 3-point line. Griffith has warned Weiss, “Enjoy this year, because next year you’re gonna get the coverages that Abbey gets.”
Griffith has also told Weiss not to try to be Hsu, now or in future years. “We want you to be Riley,” she said. And one day, “being Riley” might make Weiss the new standard-bearer.
“Riley’s gonna break your [3-point] record in three years,” Griffith told Hsu earlier this season.
“I hope she does,” Hsu responded.
All season statistics are as of Dec. 4, 2023.
Written by Jenn Hatfield
Jenn Hatfield has been a contributor to The Next since December 2018 and is currently the site's managing editor, Washington Mystics beat reporter and Ivy League beat reporter. Her work has also appeared at FiveThirtyEight, Her Hoop Stats, FanSided, Power Plays and Princeton Alumni Weekly.