COLUMBIA — When she was struggling early in the season, freshman forward Jessica James never quit working hard to improve.
In Columbia College’s 77-63 Tursday win over the Missouri Baptist Spartans, that hard work finally paid off for James.
“She came in here and struggled early in the year, but she didn’t tuck her tail between her legs,” coach Mike Davis said. “She’s had a great attitude and now it is really rewarding her with great play.”
James came up with 12 points in the second half to help the Cougars extend the lead. She finished the game with 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting from the field.
“A lot of those baskets were just pick up the ball off the floor and put it in,” James said. “That kind of got me going.”
Missouri Baptist connected on 6 three-point baskets in the first 10 minutes of the game. But when the Cougars switched to a man-to-man defense, the Spartans went cold. Missouri Baptist made just 27 percent of its three-point attempts in the second half.
“We definitely talked about how they had a couple shooters that we needed to stay on,” Columbia College point guard Whitney Davis said. “We did a lot better job of that the second half.”
Despite switching defenses, Columbia College was still able to force 19 turnovers, including 6 by Nikia Henry, Missouri Baptist’s leading scorer on the season. Columbia College frustrated the 5-foot-2-inch Henry by defending her with 6-foot senior forward Megan Archuleta.
“She’s probably not used to going against a bigger guard” Archuleta said. “I’m sure it was a little different than what she has seen all year.”
Henry was also limited by foul trouble.
The Cougars received gutsy performances from a couple of injured players. Whitney Widaman played despite having a dislocated thumb on her shooting hand and forward Rachel Oswald was forced to leave the game early in the first half with a bloody nose.
“I think we can’t question the heart of some of these girls at all,” Davis said.