RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Casie Cowan and Katie Smith combined to score 58 of Cumberland University’s 97 points, as the seventh-ranked Bulldogs defeated the University of Rio Grande women’s basketball team, 97-89, in the Mid-South Conference opener for both schools, Thursday night at Newt Oliver Arena.
The loss was the second straight setback for the RedStorm (5-2, 0-1 MSC), while Cumberland improved to 2-3 overall and 1-0 in the MSC on the young season.
In a game that saw six lead changes and eight ties, the Bulldogs found themselves up 29-21 with just under eight minutes left in the first half.
An 8-0 run fueled by junior guard Brianna Thomas (Maplewood, NJ) and sophomore forward Julia Heaberlin (Ashland, KY) would knot things up at 29 with five minutes left in the first half of action.
The two teams would go back and forth from there on out before Cumberland grabbed a 39-38 edge at halftime thanks to a conventional three-point play by Tacouya Allen with just three seconds left before the intermission.
Though, for the most part, the second half was a back-and-forth slugfest, Rio Grande failed to regain the lead as Cumberland cashed in from the free throw line and hit clutch three-pointers when needed.
In fact, 18 of the Bulldogs’ final 25 points came from the foul line.
Despite losing, the RedStorm were able to outrebound the Bulldogs, 45-27, with 21 of those RedStorm rebounds being of the offensive variety.
Cumberland shot 50 percent from the field overall (29-for-58), 45 percent from three-point range (10-for-22) and 83 percent from the foul line (29-for-35).
Rio Grande shot a respectable 45 percent from the field (30-for-66), while hitting seven of their 16 three point tries and 22 of their 29 free throws.
“You have to give credit to Cumberland, because they shot the heck out of the ball tonight,” said Rio Grande head coach David Smalley. “We’ve got a lot of things to learn defensively and we’re getting better. I thought we came out with a lot of energy, especially our bench, but it really comes down to executing on both ends of the floor. The glaring mistakes that we made were from inexperience. Tonight was certainly a recipe for an upset.”
Rio Grande was led in the loss by Thomas’ career-high 33-point outing, followed by freshman Alexis Payne’s (Deep Water, WV) career-high 20 points and Heaberlin’s career-high equaling 13-point night.
Freshman forward Brooke Marcum (Vinton, OH) led the RedStorm in rebounding once again with nine, while Thomas dished out a team-high three assists.
A quartet of Bulldogs scored double figures, with Cowan became the third-straight opponent to net 31 points against Rio Grande.
Smith finished with 27 points, including 22 in the second half, while Allen had 13 and Brittany Lawson netted 10. Lawson also had a team-high six rebounds and Allen contributed a game-high five assists.