RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Jasmine Smith poured in a career-high 24 points, while teammates Abby Wendel and Alexis Payne also reached double figures to lead the University of Rio Grande in an 84-72 win over Wilberforce University in the Women’s Division championship game of the Bevo Francis Invitational Tournament, Saturday afternoon, at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Rio Grande improved to 6-1 with the victory. Wilberforce slipped to 5-3 with the loss.
Smith, a junior from Canal Winchester, Ohio, connected on 11 of her 13 field goal attempts en route to surpassing her previous career-best mark of 18 points, which she’d reached twice before – most recently against Asbury University on Jan. 24 of this year.
Smith also finished with eight rebounds.
Wendel, a sophomore from Portland, Ind., rebounded from a scoreless outing in Friday night’s win over Ohio University-Lancaster with 18 points, while Payne – a senior from Deep Water, W.Va. – scored 17 points and pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds.
The game was a see-saw affair throughout the opening quarter and the better part of the second stanza, with eight ties and a pair of lead changes. Wilberforce enjoyed its biggest lead of the day during the stretch, taking an 18-14 lead after a Jamee Denman three-pointer with 7:42 left before the intermission.
Rio forged the game’s final tie with 4:18 left in the first half when a three-pointer by freshman Chyna Chambers knotted the score at 25-25 and took the lead for good just 22 seconds later on a jumper by Wendel.
After trailing by six points after halftime, the Bulldogs pulled to within two points, 38-36, following a steal and a layup by Brittany Wells with 8:23 remaining in the third period, but got no closer the rest of the way.
The RedStorm stretched their lead to nine points by the close of the third quarter and to as many as 14 points in the closing seconds before settling on a 12-point margin of victory.
Rio Grande shot 54.5 percent from the field (18-for-33) in the second half and 48.5 percent for the game (33-for-68), while also outrebounding its guests, 46-34.
Freshman Nia McCormick (Cincinnati, OH) added a game-high six assists to the winning effort for the RedStorm, while sophomore Sydney Holden (Wheelersburg, OH) had four steals.
Wilberforce got a game-high 29 points and four steals from Wells, while Alexandra Shealey netted 18 points, Denman finished with 10 and Tivia Hylton equaled Payne’s game-best total of 12 rebounds.
Rio Grande returns to action next Saturday against Washington Adventist (Md.) in the opening round of the NAIA DII Showcase in Kingsport, Tenn. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.