The Phoenix (12-8, 2-6 Mid-South) dropped to 1-6 against ranked opponents this season and lost for the fifth time by seven points or less, failing to capitalize on opportunities in the fourth quarter. Cumberland also made just 12 of 23 at the foul line, including 4 of 9 in the final period.
Neal made 7 of 11 shots from the field but the rest of the club struggled, connecting on just 13 of 49, including 3 for 15 for Chelsey Hall, 3 of 10 by Bowers and 3 for 12 from Jalita Fason. CU shot just 25 percent in the first half but improved to 47 percent in the final two quarters.
Martin netted 13 of LWC’s 24 points in the first half and then hit a dagger of a 3-pointer, one of five in the game, with 49.4 seconds remaining to give the Blue Raiders (17-4, 5-3) a 57-53 advantage.
Cumberland missed two shots on its next possession but Bowers was fouled with 13.1 seconds to play. She made the first foul shot, missed the second intentionally and then made a steal after a rebound by Lindsey Wilson. She fed Hall for a layup with 6.0 seconds left, cutting the deficit to one, but Chanel Roberts made two free throws for LWC with 4.9 seconds remaining after missing 3-of-5 in the first 59 minutes of the game.
Cumberland called timeout and advanced to the ball but was unable to inbound. Kayla Richardson made the steal, was fouled intentionally on the other end, hit both shots and then nailed a 3-pointer off the inbounds for the final points.
Richardson finished with nine points and Billie Hearn added seven points, nine rebounds and five blocks for Lindsey Wilson.
Julia Fox hit consecutive 3-pointers late in the third quarter for CU and posted eight points. Neal grabbed seven rebounds for the Phoenix, who got 20 offensive rebounds and turned those into 14 second-chance points.
Lindsey Wilson raced out to a 13-4 lead in the opening quarter thanks to a pair of 3-pointers from Martin and one by Richardson. Terra Pryor’s trifecta from the corner ended a 2-for-10 start from the field for Cumberland and Shantanique Tolbert’s putback cut the deficit to 13-9.
The Blue Raiders did not score over the final 5:45 of the period, missing four shots, committing three turnovers and also missing a pair of free throws. It took the rest of the quarter to finally tie the game, but Neal’s baseline jumper and Fason’s drive to the basket in the final seconds of the period knotted the score at 13.
Fason’s field goal and Hall’s 3-pointer from the wing put the Phoenix ahead, 20-15, and a Bowers left-handed layup at the 6:09 mark made it 22-18, but Cumberland failed to score for the remainder of the half, going 0-for-9 with a pair of turnovers.
Martin’s drive to the basket cut the CU lead to one and Roberts’ bucket plus the foul marked the final points of the quarter at the 3:19 mark. LWC took a 24-22 advantage to intermission, with Cumberland shooting just 25 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes and Lindsey Wilson hitting 33 percent.
Martin netted 13 of LWC’s 24 points with three 3-pointers, while Neal collected six points and Fason had four for the Phoenix.
Cumberland held the lead for most of the third quarter thanks to a layup by Hall and two from Neal. Jazmine Smith and Bowers each hit two free throws and Fox’s two straight 3-pointers gave CU a 42-37 advantage. Hearn hit one foul shot and Cameron McPherson added a lay-in just before the horn to end the period, cutting the lead to 42-40 at the end of three.
Martin’s 3-pointer early in the final period knotted the game at 43 and layups by Courtney Sandlin and Ashley Johnson put the Blue Raiders ahead, 47-45. Neal’s layup with 6:40 remaining tied the game again and a drive by Bowers for a basket and the foul made it 50-all midway through the quarter.
Martin hit two foul shots with 2:57 to play for a 54-53 LWC edge and then nailed the 3-pointer in the final minute.
Cumberland will play at Tougaloo on Feb. 6 at 3 p.m. before ending the season with six straight Mid-South Conference matchups.