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Cowan has 31 to lead CU women

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RIO GRANDE, Ohio – Casie Cowan netted a career-high 31 points, including six 3-pointers, and Katie Smith added a career-best 27 points as seventh-ranked Cumberland shot 64 percent from the field after the break and hung on for a 97-89 victory over Rio Grande here Thursday night at Newt Oliver Arena.

The Bulldogs connected on 29-of-35 free throws as well, including 23-for-28 in the second half, in a contest that featured 47 combined fouls by the two teams. CU made 10 3-pointers in the game, seven in the first half.

Cowan and Smith led four players in double figures, with TaCouya Allen chipping in 13 points, five rebounds and five assists and Brittany Lawson adding 10 points and six boards.

The Bulldogs started quickly, with Cowan netting the first seven points of the game. CU stayed hot from behind the arc in the game’s first 11 minutes, with Tasia Blue, Smith and Layce Colter all nailing trifectas. Cumberland led 21-9 before the Red Storm hit the boards on consecutive trips to the free throw line, scoring seven straight points.

Smith’s three from the top of the key put Cumberland ahead, 27-18, before Brianna Thomas, who led all scorers with 33 points, ran off five straight points and 9-of-11 for Rio Grande, tying the contest at 29 with 5:14 left in the period.

From there the teams went back-and-forth, with Cowan knocking down her third 3-pointer of the half with 94 seconds left before the break, but Thomas answered with a layup and Alexis Payne nailed a trifecta from the corner.

Allen then rebounded a missed shot, hit the layup and was fouled with 3.3 seconds remaining before intermission. She hit the foul shot, giving the Bulldogs a 39-38 advantage headed to the locker room.

Cowan scored 13 points in the half and Allen added eight, with the Bulldogs hitting 7-of-15 from behind the arc. But Rio Grande grabbed 10 offensive rebounds, turning those into points, hurting the smaller and very thin front line for Cumberland.

Smith and Cowan netted the first 18 points of the second half for the Bulldogs, all in the first six minutes, but through it all, Rio Grande hung tough, with four points from Sarah Boner and seven by Thomas, including consecutive buckets to pull the Red Storm within 60-57 with 12 minutes to play.

Lawson did her best work of the night over the next two-plus minutes, registering seven consecutive points for the Bulldogs, drawing fouls in the lane and hitting free throws. Smith added a leaner off the glass and Allen’s old-fashioned 3-point play with 8:44 remaining gave CU a 71-63 advantage.

The Bulldogs pushed the lead to 11 after two foul shots from Cowan with 4:51 to play and from there it was a free throw shooting contest between the two clubs, with the two teams connecting on 13 shots from the charity stripe. Cowan’s final trifecta from the corner all but secured the win for CU, but four free throws from Tasia Blue in the final minute secured the win.

Cumberland heads to 11th-ranked Shawnee State on Saturday for a 1 p.m. Central Time contest. Thursday’s game was the second of five straight away from home for the Bulldogs.

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