RIO GRANDE, Ohio — After coughing up an early double-digit lead, the University of Rio Grande used a strong third quarter finish to pull away again and post an eventual 85-77 win over Mount Vernon Nazarene University, Tuesday afternoon, in non-conference women’s basketball action at the Newt Oliver Arena.
The RedStorm improved to 4-6 with the victory, snapping a two-game losing streak against the Cougars, including an 11-point setback at Mount Vernon 14 days earlier.
MVNU slipped to 3-6 with the loss.
Rio Grande scored the game’s first 13 points, but the Cougars methodically chipped away at the deficit and eventually drew even at 42-all when Rylee Pireu with 3:00 remaining in the third quarter.
The RedStorm rebounded, though, by closing the period on a 14-3 run, including three-point goals on consecutive possessions by junior Avery Harper (Seaman, OH), to produce an 11-point cushion entering the final stanza.
The lead ballooned to as many as 17 points, 67-50, following a bucket in the lane by sophomore Lexi Woods (Waverly, OH) with 6:25 left in the contest.
Mount Vernon Nazarene rallied again and got to within seven points of a tie on six different occasions over the final 3:07 — including three times in the final 30 seconds — but got no closer the rest of the way.
The Cougars managed to hang around by going 18-for-20 (90.0%) at the foul line in the fourth quarter and 32-for-38 (84.2%) from the charity stripe for the game.
Rio Grande also got plenty of chances from the free throw line in a game where the three-member officiating crew whistled 54 combined fouls (31 against the RedStorm and 23 on MVNU).
Rio finished 15-for-20 (75 percent) at the stripe in the final stanza and 22-for-30 (73.3%) for the game.
Freshman Caitlyn Brisker (Oak Hill, OH) scored a team-best 20 points for the RedStorm, while Harper netted 15 points and sophomore Hailey Jordan (Columbus, OH) tallied 11 points.
Woods finished with nine points and 10 rebounds and senior Chyna Chambers (Columbus, OH) handed out six assists in the winning effort for the RedStorm, who also shot 51.9 percent (14-for-27) from the floor in the second half and 47.5% (28-for-59) for the game.
Pireu poured in a game-high 28 points for MVNU, including a 15-for-16 performance at the foul line.
Erin Boehm and Rachel Perry finished with 14 and 10 points, respectively, for the Cougars, while Taylor Gregory had a game-high 16 rebounds and two blocked shots.
Mount Vernon finished 20-for-62 from the field overall (32.3%) after shooting just 28.1 percent (9-for-32) in the opening half.
Rio Grande returns to action on Wednesday afternoon when fellow River States Conference member Alice Lloyd College visits for a non-conference matchup.
Tipoff is set for 3 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.