Saturday’s women’s basketball game between Columbia College and Harris-Stowe State featured the American Midwest Conference’s top three scorers, but the competition outplayed the conference leader.
The Cougars beat the Hornets 99-59 at The Arena of Southwell Complex for their 11th consecutive win. The Cougars (19-7, 10-0 AMC) held Laniya Stevens, the AMC’s leading scorer with 19.8 points per game, to nine on 2-of-9 shooting as the Cougars’ Charliss Ridley and Lisa Kowalewski alternated dominant scoring halves.
Ridley is the AMC’s second-leading scorer with 17.4 per game, and Kowalewski is third, averaging 16.4.
Ridley, a junior forward, outscored the Hornets in the first half 19-18. She finished with 27 points and made all 10 of her free throws.
“We knew going into this game we had a height advantage, so I knew down low I just had to play strong,” Ridley said. “My teammates did a good job of finding me open, and I just tried to keep moving.”
The Hornets (8-19, 2-8) tried to take away Ridley’s inside game in the second half, which opened up the perimeter for the Cougars’ guards. Kowalewski, a junior guard, scored 24 of her season-high 30 after intermission. She made all six of her 3-point attempts in the second half.
“When the first (3-pointer) went in, it was like this huge weight went off my shoulders,” Kowalewski said. “Last game I didn’t shoot well at all, and this game they were just going in, and it was great. I couldn’t stop smiling.”
Tiffany Foote’s dribble penetration, along with Ridley’s inside presence, created mostly open looks for Kowalewski. Foote had a game-high 10 assists and Ridley added seven.
Mike Davis, the Cougars’ coach, said Ridley, Kowalewski and Foote will primarily determine the Cougars’ postseason fate.
“They all do different things,” Davis said. “They really can complement each other well, and that is a plus for us.”
The No. 23 Cougars lead the AMC with 77 points per game, but their 3-2 zone defense was the key to their fast start. The Cougars’ perimeter defense got 19 steals, and Mindy Mitchem intimidated the Hornets in the lane. Mitchem leads the nation with 3.1 blocks per game and had five against the Hornets.
Saturday’s game was the first of three in four days for the Cougars. They play Lindenwood at home Monday before traveling to Williams Baptist (Ark.) on Tuesday. Lindenwood is the Cougars’ final nonconference opponent.
“This is a really big stretch for us,” Davis said. “I think tonight our girls came out with a real idea and a purpose that this was going to be a time we needed to have the energy, and I think that showed on the defensive end.”