WILMORE, Ky. — Autumn Herriford connected on a pair of free throws with 6.9 seconds remaining, culminating a late-game rally and lifting Asbury University to a 99-98 win over the University of Rio Grande, Wednesday evening, in women’s basketball action at the Luce Activities Center.
The Eagles, whose current six-game winning streak began with a November triumph over Rio in the Bevo Francis Invitational, improved to 7-2 with the victory.
Rio Grande, which had a four-game winning streak snapped, slipped to 7-7 with the loss.
The RedStorm erased a nine-point deficit with just over eight minutes remaining and took a five-point lead of their own, 93-88, following a conventional three-point play by sophomore Lexi Woods (Waverly, OH) with 3:40 left to play.
Asbury refused to fold, though, and closed the game on an 11-5 run over the final 2:21 to get the win.
Rio Grande’s last ditch effort to rescue victory from the jaws of defeat proved futile when Woods’ three-point attempt from the right wing as time expired bounced off the back of the rim.
The dramatic finish capped a back-and-forth contest which featured nine ties and a whopping 16 lead changes, while also being played at a break-neck tempo.
The RedStorm opened up a 10-point cushion, 38-28, after a three-pointer by sophomore Kaylie Apperson (McConnelsville, OH) with 6:54 left in the opening half capped a 14-0 run, but the Eagles rallied to close the gap to 49-47 by the intermission.
Then came a see-saw second half, which included four of the ties in the game and nine of its lead changes.
Asbury took a one-point lead into the final stanza and extended its advantage to as many as nine points, 84-75, following a bucket by Jaclynn Ruble with 8:11 remaining in the game, but Rio responded with a 13-3 run – capped by a steal and layup from freshman Aleea Crites (Parkersburg, WV) – to regain an 88-87 edge with 5:32 left to play.
The RedStorm eventually pushed the lead to five points on the three-point play by Woods, setting the stage for the wild finish.
Asbury, which entered the game averaging an NAIA-best 13.6 three-pointers per game, connected on 17 of their 48 attempts from beyond the arc (35.4%) and finished 30-for-79 overall (38.0%).
The Eagles were also solid at the free throw line, going 22-for-29 (75.9%).
Herriford continued her career-long propensity for big performances against Rio by leading a quartet of double-digit scorers with a season-high 30 points. She averaged 18 points and seven rebounds per game against the RedStorm in five previous meetings prior to Wednesday night.
Kelsey Johnson added 22 points, including five three-pointers, to Asbury’s winning effort, while Ruble finished with 15 and Sarah Dennison chipped in with 11. Ruble and Zaria Napier also had six rebounds each, while Faith Osborne handed out five assists and Herriford also blocked three shots.
Woods led Rio Grande in a losing cause with 21 points, while sophomore Hailey Jordan netted 16 points and freshman Caitlyn Brisker (Oak Hill, OH) had 15. Crites finished with 13 points to go along with a game-high 13 rebounds and five blocked shots, while senior Chyna Chambers (Columbus, OH) had a game-best six assists.
The RedStorm shot 46 percent overall (37-for-80) and enjoyed a commanding 57-39 edge in rebounding, but hurt their own cause by going just 16-for-25 at the free throw line (64.0%) and committing 21 turnovers that produced 18 points for the Eagles.
Rio Grande is scheduled to return to action on Saturday afternoon when it travels to Circleville, Ohio for a meeting with Ohio Christian University. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. at the Maxwell Center.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.