MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — It took nearly the entire first half for the University of Rio Grande to finally gain a lead.
When that lead evaporated and turned into a double-digit second half deficit, it proved to be a tad more than the RedStorm could handle.
Head coach David Smalley’s club twice cut a 12-point fourth quarter deficit down to one, but failed to get over the hump in an eventual 99-91 loss to Mount Vernon Nazarene University, Wednesday night, in non-conference women’s basketball action at Ariel Arena.
The Cougars snapped a two-game losing streak with the win, improving to 7-2 overall.
Rio Grande suffered a second straight loss, dropping to 5-3.
The RedStorm trailed by as many as seven points early on before taking its first lead of the night, 36-35, on a three-pointer by senior Sydney Holden (Wheelersburg, OH) with 3:28 left in the first half.
The lead grew to 46-43 by the intermission, but MVNU exploded for 33 points in the third quarter and opened up a 10-point lead of its own entering the final stanza.
The Cougars’ cushion reached 12 points, 84-72, following a bucket by Elizabeth Fee with 6:59 remaining in the game, but Rio countered with 14-3 run over the next four minutes and closed within 87-86 following another trifecta by Holden with 2:54 remaining.
A pair of free throws by freshman Hailey Jordan (Columbus, OH) had Rio back within one, 89-88, with 1:29 left, but a 5-0 Mount Vernon run over the course of the next minute gave the Cougars the lead for good and the RedStorm got no closer.
Maggie Coblentz scored a career-high 24 points to lead five double-digit scorers for MVNU. Taylor Gregory added 18 points, 15 rebounds and five blocked shots in the winning effort, surpassing the 1,000-point mark for her career in the process.
Sage Brandon added 18 points of her for the Cougars, who connected on 10 three-pointers as a team, while Maggie Coe and Dani Ellerbrock tallied 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Jordan had a career-high 22 points and 10 rebounds for Rio Grande, while Holden also netted 22 points and freshman Lexi Woods finished with 20 points and a career-high 11 rebounds.
Sophomore Avery Harper (Seaman, OH) added 13 points and 10 rebounds in a losing cause for the RedStorm, while freshman Samaria Rodgers-Gossett (Columbus, OH) handed out a game-high six assists.
Rio shot just 36 percent in the second half (16-for-44), while the Cougars connected on 51.5 percent (17-for-33) of their field goal attempts.
Rio Grande returns to action on Saturday evening when it hosts sixth-ranked Saint Francis (IN).
Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.