COLUMBIA — The first time the Columbia College women's basketball team faced Hannibal-LaGrange University this season, the Cougars struggled badly offensively, shooting a lowly 36 percent from the field in a tight 70-62 victory. The second meeting against their American Midwest Conference foe wasn’t nearly as close.
Columbia (20-5, 16-1 in the AMC) was in control the entire game, leading by as many as 42 midway through the second half en route to an 81-47 drubbing of the Trojans. The win, coupled with a loss by Freed-Hardeman University on Saturday, put the Cougars in a tie for first place in the conference with five regular-season games remaining.
In Saturday's game, the Cougars made 16 field goals in the first half against Hannibal after only making 20 total in the first meeting.
“We played with a purpose today,” Columbia coach Mike Davis said. “When you make shots, it covers up a lot of blemishes.”
Consistently trapping Hannibal's ball-handlers, Columbia played stellar defensively in the first half, forcing 10 turnovers and holding its opponent to 33 percent shooting. Columbia allowed Hannibal to shoot 50 percent in the second half, but much of the Trojans' scoring occurred after the Cougars pulled their starters.
Columbia held Hannibal junior forward Ashleigh Hurd-Spencer to only four points after she scored 21 in the first meeting between the teams.
Sophomore forward Janairrika Bland led the Cougars offensively with 20 points on 9-for-15 shooting and junior guard Tierney Seifert added four three pointers. Seifert, who came into the game shooting just 30 percent from deep, said that she had been forcing her shot too much and tried to be more relaxed in Saturday's game.
“Going out there, just throwing them up and being loose with it really helped me today,” Seifert said.
With eight consecutive victories, Columbia boasts the biggest winning streak in the American Midwest Conference. The Cougars benefited from Freed-Hardeman's first conference loss Saturday against Lyon. Each team has five regular-season games remaining, including a sure-to-be crucial meeting on Feb. 22 at Columbia.
First, the Cougars will play at Mid-Continent on Tuesday, and then at winless Stephens on Thursday.
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.