RIO GRANDE, Ohio — For just the fourth time this season, the University of Rio Grande women’s basketball team found themselves trailing going into the locker room at halftime - a trend that saw the RedStorm come out victorious two of the three previous times.
The winning ways would continue for head coach David Smalley and his squad, as they were able to overcome a 46-44 halftime deficit and defeat the University of Cincinnati-Clermont, 87-71, Monday evening at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Rio Grande (12-2) was able to jump out to a quick 9-0 start and looked poised to make it a long night for UC-Clermont, but the Cougars would respond by scoring nine of the next 14 points to pull themselves within five.
The RedStorm lead would once again push the advantage to double digits, as they held a 28-17 lead with exactly 10 minutes left in the first half.
UC-Clermont would respond again, fueled by senior guard Ashley Keith, and cut the lead to just one point courtesy of a 10-0 run which spanned 2-1/2 minutes.
The Cougars would grab their first lead at 33-32 with just over four and a half minutes left in the first half before the two squads would battle and go back and forth for the remainder of the half.
Freshman forward Alexis Payne (Deep Water, WV) converted a tying layup while being fouled with just over one second left in the half, but she would miss the free throw, resulting in an over-the-back foul on Rio Grande and allowing UC-Clermont to convert on a pair of free throws to take a 46-44 halftime lead.
Rio awoke in the second half in a big way, as they battled and took a 66-64 lead with seven and a half minutes left in the contest.
The RedStorm would then orchestrate a 15-0 run over the next six minutes to take a commanding 83-64 lead that would put away the Cougars for the evening, as the game would finish at a tally of 87-71.
“We came out the first three minutes and hit some perimeter shots and that’s when I start to cringe, because it makes us want to keep shooting,” Smalley said. “We finished the first half four of 13 from three-point range and we were simply flat. As a coaching staff, I just don’t think we demanded that the ball be put inside the paint as much as it should have been. We’re still growing and learning who we are as a team, and you can’t get too bent out of shape. We’re so deep and we simply just wear people down when the day is over.”
Shooting-wise, Rio Grande finished the game shooting just over 48 percent (31 of 64) from the field, 28 percent (5 of 18) from beyond the arc, and nearly 74 percent (14 of 19) from the free throw line, while UC-Clermont shot 49 percent (25 of 51), 33 percent (2 of 6) and 86 percent (12 of 14), respectively.
The RedStorm were outrebounded for the just the second time this season, as the Cougars held a 36-30 advantage on the boards.
Leading in the scoring column for Rio Grande was junior guard Brianna Thomas (Maplewood, NJ) with 26 points and a team-high in both steals (4) and assists (3), followed by sophomore forward Sarah Bonar’s (Hartford, OH) 20 points and team-high 10 rebounds for her third double-double of the season.
Freshman guard Sharday Baines (East Cleveland, OH) also shared a team-high three assists.
For UC-Clermont (8-7), Stacie Lee led the charge with a 20-point, 11-rebound performance, while Keith and Kelsey Finn had 18 and 11 points, respectively.
With the non-conference portion of the schedule now complete, Rio Grande will now jump back into conference play this Thursday when they travel to take on Cumberlands (KY) on Thursday for a 6 p.m. tipoff.