Ciaja Harbison and Chantelle Anderson share a special moment after Vanderbilts victory over Texas A&M on Jan. 28, 2023 (Vanderbilt Athletics).
Ciaja Harbison and Chantelle Anderson share a special moment after Vanderbilt’s victory over Texas A&M on Jan. 28, 2023 (Vanderbilt Athletics).
Vanderbilt Athletics

A tie 20 years in the making: Harbison and Anderson reflect on Sunday’s record-setting performance

In 2001, Chantelle Anderson set the Vanderbilt Women’s Basketball single-game scoring record. Over 20 years later, she was in Memorial Gymnasium to watch Ciaja Harbison be the first player to tie it.

Ciaja Harbison put forth an incredible scoring output of 41 points against Texas A&M on Sunday, Jan. 28. The remarkable performance led Vanderbilt to a victory over the Aggies and snap a seven-game losing streak. Beyond the monumental win, Harbsison’s scoring clinic landed her a spot in the Vanderbilt record-book, as her 41 points tied a 2001 record set by former Commodore Chantelle Anderson (‘01) as the most points scored in a single game by a member of the Black and Gold. 

Throughout the game, there was simply no stopping Harbison, as she scored with will all over the court. Perhaps the most impressive part of the showing was not just that Harbison scored so many points, but that she did so with such efficient shooting numbers. The 5’6” guard shot 14-of-19 from the field, 2-of-4 from 3-point range and connected on 11-of-13 free throws. On top of that, Harbison added five steals. 

“We had been struggling in the SEC, so the focus was on coming out, throwing the first punch, trying to get a win against Texas A&M,” Harbison told The Hustler. “[I tried] to do whatever I can to help my team get the win.”  

A 40-plus point performance is hard to come by: Factoring in the effectiveness with which Harbison scored — as well as the defensive help that she provided — made it nothing short of a generational performance. Harbison won her second SEC-player of the week award of the season, the SEC office announced on Tuesday, for this stellar outing.

We know that she is one of, if not the best, players in the league, and tonight she proved it.

— Head coach Shea Ralph

“We [the coaching staff] could not be more excited about the individual performance of Ciaja Harbison,” head coach Shea Ralph said. “We know that she is one of, if not the best, players in the league, and tonight she proved it.” 

Harbison isn’t the only Commodore to have scored 41 points in Memorial Gymnasium in a single game. Whether it was fate, luck or a perfect combination of both, Anderson — her now co-record holder — was in the arena to witness Harbison’s dazzling day.

It just so happened that Vanderbilts Athletics had decided to invite all of the basketball alumni back into town last weekend to celebrate the women’s basketball program and to meet the athletes currently on the team.

“[The hope was] to build a family as a program, both past, present and hopefully future,” Anderson told The Hustler. “It was amazing getting to see my old teammates, to meet the new girls on the team, the new family. We just spent some time celebrating Women’s Basketball at Vanderbilt.”

Anderson is one of the most decorated Vanderbilt athletes of all time across all sports. Beyond the record that she now shares with Harbison, Anderson ranks first in career points at Vanderbilt with 2,604. She is the school’s only two-time All-American. She was named the SEC player of the year in 2002 and earned first-team all-SEC in 2001, 2002 and 2003. The list goes on and on. 

Anderson’s accomplishments were enough to get her selected No. 2 overall by the Sacramento Monarchs in the 2003 WNBA draft. Anderson spent time with the Monarchs, San Antonio Silver Stars and Atlanta Dream before multiple season-ending injuries led her to retire in 2009. She now works as a podcaster and author. She published her book, “God, What The Heck?!: 100 Devotionals For When Life Sucks,” in 2020. 

“I was just super proud of [Ciaja], super excited for her,” Anderson said. “When I got a chance to see her after the game, I just wanted to tell her that. Give her a big hug. I think sometimes people can want their records to stand forever and not want other people to break them, but I was just so happy for her.”

Anderson was equally impressed as excited. She knew how important it was for Harbison to take control of the game to help the team.  

“Her team needed her. She didn’t just get the record in a game that was a blowout. She went for 41 [points] in a game that her team needed her to go for 41 [points],” Anderson said. “That is the mark for a good player: You’re going to do whatever is needed to win.”

Superb play isn’t foreign to Harbison, though. She’s scored over 25 points on eight different occasions this season, contributing her continued success to the hard-work that she puts in during practice. 

“I just continue to work on my game, [trying] to elevate it as far as weakness,” Harbison said. “Especially my 3-pointer, which has been an emphasis this whole season and even in the offseason. Obviously, just doing what I do best, whether it’s offensively or defensively, to continue to elevate each game.”

The hard work has seemingly paid off: After an inconsistent start from 3-point range, Harbison seems to have found her shot, shooting 43.3% from downtown through eight games in 2023. 

Time and time again this season, Harbison has proved that she is one of college basketball’s elite guards. The fifth-year transfer is averaging a career-high 19.9 points, which ranks second in the SEC. In addition, she’s chipped in 4.4 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game through 19 contests played. Harbison has managed to improve her statistics in all five years that she’s played, despite transferring from St. Louis — an Atlantic 10 school — to the SEC. 

Harbison was all smiles when addressing the media after the game. She was proud of herself, but, above all, showed that she’s a team player, just happy to propel her team to its first conference victory. 

“I knew I was capable of doing it. I’m excited about this performance, but I’m more excited about this win,” said Harbison.

Good players can score a lot, but it takes a great player to elevate the play of their teammates and help win games for their team. Starters Yaubryon Chambers and Sacha Washington both fouled out against the Aggies, so the onus fell even more on Harbison to close the game out and earn the Commodores a much-needed win. 

Ralph could not have agreed more, praising the team’s star point guard and echoing Anderson’s thoughts. 

“We needed every single one of her 41-points. What I love about her individual performance is that it contributed to an overall incredible team performance,” said Ralph. 

Harbison will look to build on an already incredible season this Sunday, Feb. 5 at home against Georgia.

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About the Contributor
Aiden Rutman
Aiden Rutman, Sports Editor
Aiden Rutman (‘25) is a student in Peabody College majoring in human and organizational development and minoring in communication studies. He formerly produced The Hustler’s sports podcast, Live from West End. In addition to writing and podcasting, Aiden is an avid New York sports fan, and he loves playing sports, spending time outdoors and trying new foods. You can reach him at [email protected].
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