PIKEVILLE, Kentucky — A second half offensive surge was not enough to overcome a disappointing first half of basketball, as the University of Rio Grande women’s basketball team fell 100-97 to the University of Pikeville, Thursday evening, at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
The loss was the second straight for the RedStorm (14-6 overall, 3-5 Mid-South Conference) and the fourth in their last six contests.
On paper, Rio Grande won nearly every facet of the game. The RedStorm collected more rebounds, committed less turnovers, missed just one free throw, and had a season-high six players score double figures.
The story on the court painted a much different picture, though, as the Rio Grande defense allowed the Bears numerous open looks at the basket throughout the entire game.
An 11-0 run by Pikeville extended the Bears’ lead to 27-14 halfway through the first half and both teams nearly went shot-for-shot for the remainder of the half, although the RedStorm managed to make up some ground late and slice the deficit to just 48-40 at the half.
In the opening four minutes of the second stanza, the light switched on for Rio Grande.
Fueled by the play of freshman guard Kaylyn Gambill (Ashland, KY), the RedStorm scored 16 of the first 24 points of the half and forged a 56-56 tie with just over 16 minutes remaining in contest.
From that point on, the game resembled a prize fight with both boxers going toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring. Both teams essentially scored at will and neither held more than a four-point lead going into the last two minutes of the contest.
Rio Grande netted four free throws on two separate trips down the floor to take an 89-86 lead with 3-1/2 minutes remaining, but Pikeville guard Kelah Eldridge would rattle home a three-pointer on the next possession down the floor for the Bears and then, after a defensive stop, she connected on another triple to give UPike a 92-89 advantage with 2-1/2 minutes left in the contest.
After exchanging baskets over the course of the next three possessions, Rio saw its offense go silent for over a minute and Pikeville extended its lead to 98-93 with 41 seconds remaining.
The RedStorm got buckets from junior guard Brianna Thomas (Maplewood, NJ) and sophomore forward Sarah Bonar (Hartford, OH) on their next two possessions to cut the deficit to 98-97 with just 14 seconds remaining but, after a pair of free throws by UPike’s Callisha Johnson gave the Bears a three-point lead again, a last-ditch three-point try by Bonar just before the buzzer which would’ve forced overtime bounced off the back of the rim.
The RedStorm shot 45 percent from the field overall (36-for-80), while Pikeville finished 55 percent (36-for-66) from the field.
Rio Grande collected 45 rebounds as a team compared to just 36 for Pikeville and also committed one less turnover (14) than the Bears.
Thomas led the charge for Rio Grande with 24 points, six rebounds and a team-high four assists, while Bonar was one rebound shy of a double-double with 20 points and nine rebounds.
Freshman forward Brooke Marcum (Vinton, OH) recorded her sixth double-double of the season with 15 points and a team-high 11 rebounds and freshman forward Alexis Payne (Deep Water, WV) chipped in with an impressive 14-point, six-rebound, four-block performance.
Gambill and freshman guard Sharday Baines (East Cleveland, OH) finished with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Pikeville (8-11 overall, 3-5 MSC) was led on the night by the 22 points from University of Maryland transfer Khalilah Quigley, while Cheyenne Madden completed a double-double performance with 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Eldridge finished with 18 points, including four three-pointers, and Brogan Conley dished out a team-leading five assists to go along with 12 points.
Kerry Gibbs is the Assistant Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.