Butler Benches His Starting Rotation

As the player who scored 33 points against Harvard on Valentine’s Day last year, Columbia’s Sue Altman would be expected to see a lot of time on the hardwood.

And she did on Friday night in Lavietes Pavilion, only it was time on the bench rather than the floor.

A mere three minutes into the game, Lions coach Jay Butler took three of his starters—Altman, Lisa Copeland and Erin Jaschik—out of the game. They did not play again until the second half, when the Crimson had already gathered an enormous lead.

“We had a defensive philosophy going into this game and our team decided at the start of the game that they didn’t want to follow my defensive philosophy,” Butler said. “At that point my starting team wasn’t worth my time…

“My defensive philosophy was to have one player double down—Lizi Chorney—and I started the game with two players—Sue Altman being one of them, Lisa Copeland being the other—leaving their players wide open for shots.”

Harvard had amassed a nine-point lead on the strength of three-pointers when Butler’s starters left the game.

Altman ranked eighth in the league in scoring going into the weekend, averaging 15.4 points per game. She appeared to have gotten out of the doghouse on Saturday night when she tallied 22 points against Dartmouth in 39 minutes of play. Copeland notched 14 while playing all but three minutes.

On Friday, however, the fact that Altman and Copeland had scored all of Columbia’s seven points was not enough to keep them in the game.

“The tone of the game was set by the first five minutes,” Butler said. “The bottom line is that, as a coach, I’m not ready to accept a team who is not ready to go with the game plan that we practiced all week long.”


The Crimson swung from one extreme to the other from three-point land on Friday and Saturday nights.

On Friday, Harvard was unstoppable as the Crimson registered five three-pointers from four different players in the first five minutes of the game.

Harvard made 8-17 three-point attempts in the first half and 3-5 in the second. Junior center Reka Cserny led the trey frenzy with a perfect 4-4 for the night.

A different team began the game on Saturday. The Crimson missed three three-point attempts and three jumpers before junior guard Katie Murphy hit a jumper at 15:55 to finally give Harvard its first score.

The Crimson did not convert any of its eight shots from behind the arc in the first half, and managed only 3-8 in the second.

In the past, similar poor shooting has caused Harvard to tighten up, and resulted in losses such as last weekend’s at Yale. On Saturday, however, the Crimson remained composed and found other ways to score.

Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith cited her team’s mentality as the source of the improvement.

“It could be because we’re not thinking down the road, we’re not thinking title,” Delaney-Smith said. “I think that there’s a lot of pride in all Ivy League schools. That’s why Yale, after devastating losses, they were able to muscle up and win against us—because Ivy League student-athletes play with a lot of pride.”


Three of the Lions’ starters did not begin their careers with the Lions, and a fourth transfer—Adia Revell—saw only six minutes on Friday night.

Both Altman and Crimson senior Bev Moore made their Ivy League debuts last year, from Holy Cross and Louisiana Tech, respectively, and proved how valuable transfer athletes can be. There are disadvantages, however, to bringing in transfers.

“I’m not a fan of it, because I’m about the synergy of the team, and sometimes it takes a year or two or three to get what you want,” Delaney-Smith said.

Altman was originally recruited by Harvard, but chose instead to attend Holy Cross. When she resolved to transfer, Delaney-Smith tried to get her into a Crimson uniform, but the admissions office decided otherwise.

“Harvard would not admit her,” Delaney-Smith said. “This was in early July, and Harvard [said] wait another year and Columbia let her in.”

“Basically, she pursued every option in the Ivy league, and it just happened that Columbia at that particular moment had the ability to accept her late in the year,” Butler said.

While it is notoriously difficult to transfer to Harvard—only 55 students were admitted from over 1,000 applicants last year—Columbia has several undergraduate schools, and Butler cites that distribution as a reason the Lions have so many transfer athletes.

Altman and Copeland both attend Columbia College, after Copeland transferred from Fresno St.

“Lisa Copeland, she was our top recruit,” Butler said. “She chose to go to a full-scholarship school, Fresno State, didn’t like it, and she called and asked us if we were interested in her transferring.”

Lions captain Liza Chorney transferred from the Colorado School of Mines into Columbia’s engineering school, and Revell from Rhode Island to Barnard College.

Although Friday night’s result did not go in Altman’s favor, she doesn’t regret her decision to transfer into the Ancient Eight.

“I’m definitely happy I came to the Ivy League,” Altman said. “I love Columbia…It’s a place that makes you want to work hard for your school.”


After registering six steals over the weekend—five against Cornell—Cserny moves into first place in the league in steals.

She also blocked three shots against the Big Red and two versus the Lions. Cserny is known for her defensive prowess, and the reach her 6’3 frame enables. She anchored an impressive Crimson defense this weekend.

—Staff writer Jessica T. Lee can be reached at lee45@fas.harvard.edu.