RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Phillip Hertz scored a game-high 27 points to lead a quartet of double-digit scorers for the University of Rio Grande and lift the RedStorm to an 83-73 come-from-behind win over Indiana University-Kokomo, Saturday afternoon, in the Saunders Insurance Tipoff Classic at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Rio Grande rallied from a pair of early 10-point deficits to get its second win in as many tries.
“If there ever was a trap game early in the season, that was one right there,” said Rio Grande head coach Ken French, whose team had an easy time in a 121-72 trouncing of Miami-Hamilton on Friday night. “It was a quick turnaround from playing late last night to this afternoon and it was a completely different style of opponent, but we weathered the storm. Don’t get me wrong, it was ugly, but those are games that we lost in the past our best player didn’t play well, but we had other guys pick it up.”
French was referring to sophomore guard D.D. Joiner (Columbus, OH), who hit just one of his nine field goal tries and finished with only two points after a 20-point, eight-rebound effort less than 24 hours earlier.
Enter Hertz to save the day. The sophomore from Rungsted Kyst, Denmark connected on nine of his 12 field goal attempts and eight of his 10 free throw tries en route to his second straight 20-plus-point outing. He scored 13 points in the opening half and 14 points after the intermission.
“Phillip has the ability to score in bunches,” French said. “He’s one of the guys we can turn to now on those nights that D.D. doesn’t have it. That’s something we haven’t had in the past - somebody else to turn to.”
Rio Grande also got 12 points each from freshman forward Jalen Harris (Winchester, VA) and senior guard Jermaine Warmack (Orange, NJ), while junior center Sterling Smoak (San Antonio, TX) had 10 points. Harris also pulled down nine rebounds and blocked two shots, while Warmack had three assists and four steals.
The RedStorm trailed 13-3 and 15-5 inside the game’s first 7-1/2 minutes, but slowly chipped away at the deficit and eventually managed to grab a 35-33 halftime lead.
The Cougars (0-4) never led again, although they twice closed to within one point in the second half - including 61-60 with 6:08 remaining - but Rio went on an 18-6 run to open up its biggest lead of the night, 79-66, after a pair of free throws by junior guard Evan Legg (Piketon, OH) with 24.7 seconds left.
The RedStorm shot 43.9 percent for the game (25-for-57), but was 16-for-34 from the field (47.1%) in the second half. Rio also hit 30 of its 38 free throw tries.
IU-Kokomo, which is coached by former Rio Grande assistant coach Jace Thompson, shot 41 percent from the floor, but hurt its own cause with 18 turnovers.
Jerome Campbell had 12 points to lead a trio of Cougars in double figures, while Jared Lawrence and Spencer Krhin each netted 11 points. David Kelly narrowly missed a double-double effort in a losing cause, finishing with nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Rio Grande returns to action on Tuesday night, when it travels about an hour and 15 minutes to Huntington, W.Va. to face NCAA Division I Marshall University in an exhibition contest. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Cam Henderson Center.