Defense keeps Cougars rolling

Sunday, February 29, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:40 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Fans chanted “overrated” on Saturday, but perhaps an “underrated” chant directed at the Columbia College women’s basketball team would have been more appropriate.

The Cougars beat McKendree (Ill.) 76-60 at The Arena of Southwell Complex to win their third consecutive American Midwest Conference championship. The win also extended the Cougars’ winning streak to 16.

Lisa Kowalewski, a junior guard, said winning the AMC was one of the Cougars’ biggest preseason goals, and it felt great to accomplish it.

“It’s just a beginning though,” she said. “We’re not near satisfied. We have a lot of work still to do.”

Kowalewski scores a third of Cougars' points

Kowalewski scored a game-high 26, including four 3-pointers.

The No. 17 Bearcats (23-7, 12-2 AMC) are second in the conference in scoring, averaging 76.7 points per game.

The No. 24 Cougars (24-7, 14-0 AMC) held the Bearcats to 29.9 percent shooting.

Mindy Mitchem, a junior forward, was in foul trouble for much of the second half but controlled the game defensively. Mitchem, the nation’s leading shot blocker, had a career-high eight blocks and a game-high four steals in 25 minutes.

The Cougars had two forwards with double doubles. Charliss Ridley had 18 points and 13 rebounds and LeAnn Fossum added 12 points and 10 rebounds. Ridley said Fossum’s tenacity makes her fun to play with.

“She’s not playing like a freshman,” Ridley said. “She’s playing strong, especially on the rebounds. I think her confidence has really come along.”

Cougars streak at start of halves

The Cougars started both halves hot, but the Bobcats patiently worked the ball inside to stay close. The Cougars led 17-4 in the first 5:31. The Cougars led 46-27 before the Bobcats went on a 13-2 run to cut the lead to 48-40 with 11:22 left.

The Cougars are 18-2 since Ridley made her Columbia College debut Jan. 2.

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