RIO GRANDE, Ohio — No one in their right mind expected the University of Rio Grande’s winning streak to continue forever.
But, it’s equally as likely that few saw it coming to an end in the fashion that it did.
West Virginia University-Tech built a 14-point second-quarter lead, and survived a third-quarter comeback by the RedStorm, before pulling away again for an 86-72 victory on Saturday afternoon in River States Conference women’s basketball action at the Newt Oliver Arena.
The Golden Bears won for a third straight time, improving to 12-6 overall and 4-3 in league play.
Rio Grande, which had won its previous six outings, slipped to 12-7 overall and 4-3 in the RSC.
It was just the second loss at home for the RedStorm in 10 outings this season.
Tech turned a one-point deficit inside the game’s opening two minutes into a double-digit lead thanks to a 15-4 scoring spurt that covered a span of five minutes.
The lead reached 12 points by the end of the period and grew to 14 after a bucket by Melissa Bakowski made it 32-18 with 6:49 left before the intermission.
Rio Grande rallied, though, cutting the deficit to three late in the first half and to just one point on three occasions in the third quarter.
However, the game’s turning point came with 6.3 seconds left in the third quarter when, with the deficit sitting at 60-55, senior guard Sharday Baines was whistled for her fourth personal foul.
Before she could be removed from the lineup, Baines was assessed with a technical foul that resulted in her fifth personal foul and disqualification from the contest.
Cheyanna Lusk hit both technical free throws for the Golden Bears and Logan Dudley hit one of her two attempts as part of the personal foul, giving Tech an eight-point cushion entering the final stanza.
Without the services of their top scorer, top three-point shooter and playmaker for the rest of the contest, the RedStorm got no closer the rest of the way.
WVU-Tech’s largest lead was 16 points, which happened twice inside the game’s final four minutes.
Lusk fueled her team’s winning effort with a career-high 29 points.
The redshirt senior finished 10-for-14 from the floor overall, including 6-for-9 from three-point range.
Lusk also had a team-high seven rebounds and a game-best three steals.
Savannah Shamblin added 16 points and 12 assists for the Golden Bears, while Zjhane West had 10 points in the first half and finished with 14.
Sophomore Jasmine Smith had 14 points and eight rebounds off the bench for Rio, while fellow sophomore Jaida Carter also netted 14 points.
Senior Brooke Marcum, of Vinton, and freshman Kamryn Conaway, of Lucasville, equaled Smith’s total of eight rebounds.
The RedStorm enjoyed a 51-36 edge in rebounds, including 23 offensive rebounds, but finished just 29-for-74 from the field overall (39.2-percent) — and were 2-for-21 from beyond the three-point arc.
Rio Grande returns to action on Tuesday night at Alice Lloyd College.
Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. at the Grady Nutt Athletic Center in Pippa Passes, Ky.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director for the University of Rio Grande