RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Defending national champion Georgetown College built a 21-point second half lead, but was forced to hang on in the closing minutes to outlast the University of Rio Grande, 100-96, in Mid-South Conference men’s basketball action, Thursday night, at the Newt Oliver Arena.
The Tigers (16-5 overall, 7-3 MSC), who were ranked No. 18 in the latest NAIA Division I coaches poll, avenged an earlier loss at home to the RedStorm and forged a tie for second place in the MSC standings with Rio as a result of the victory.
Rio Grande, which is ranked No. 14 in the same coaches poll, slipped to 14-7 overall and 7-3 in the MSC with the loss.
Georgetown finished a back-and-forth first half with a 40-37 lead at the intermission before using a 25-8 run over a six-minute span of the second half to open up a 72-51 advantage following a Monty Wilson three-pointer with 11:27 remaining in the contest.
The Tigers’ lead still stood at seemingly comfortable 15 points, 85-70, after Noah Cottrill hit one of two free throws with 6:51 left to play, but the RedStorm began a methodical comeback effort and closed the gap to just one, 96-95, after senior guard Jermaine Warmack (Orange, NJ) buried a jumper from the left elbow of the lane with 32.2 seconds.
Unfortunately, that was close as Rio would get.
Wilson hit one of two free throws with 27.6 seconds left and Cottrill did the same 14 seconds later to give GC a 98-95 cushion, but Rio’s last gasp at a game-tying scenario in the closing seconds didn’t go as planned.
Warmack misfired on a would-be game-tying three with seven seconds remaining and junior forward Josh Reagan’s (Cleveland, OH) reverse layup attempt off of the offensive rebound was also off the mark, but sophomore guard D.D. Joiner (Columbus, OH) rebounded Reagan’s miss and was fouled with 2.5 seconds left.
Joiner hit the first of his two free throws and intentionally missed the second try in hopes of creating an opportunity for a game-tying bucket, but Reagan’s off-balance follow-up shot was off the mark and the ball went out of bounds with 0.9 seconds remaining.
Wilson was fouled on the ensuing inbounds play before any time ran off the clock, but he connected on both of his subsequent free throws to seal the victory.
Wilson finished with a game-high 31 points - 23 of which came in the second half - to lead Georgetown. He also had a team-high six rebounds and five assists.
Cottrill and Dominique Hagans added 14 points each in the win, Jaylen Daniel and Deondre McWhorter also reached double figures for the Tigers, netting 12 and 11 points, respectively. Hagans also had a game-high four steals and Montavious Marc equaled Wilson’s total of six rebounds.
Georgetown shot 58.6 percent from the field (34-for-58) for the game, including 62.1 percent (18-for-29) in the second half.
Warmack led Rio Grande with 21 points - all in the second half - and a game-high seven assists. He also reached the 1,000-point mark for his career by connecting on the two free throws which cut the deficit down to one.
Reagan added 19 points and a team-high seven rebounds, while Joiner and freshman forward Bilal Young (Cleveland, OH) tossed in 18 and 15 points, respectively. Sophomore forward Phillip Hertz (Rungsted Kyst, Denmark) tied Reagan for team honors with seven rebounds of his own.
Rio Grande returns to action on Saturday when the University of the Cumberlands visits the Newt Oliver Arena for a 4 p.m. tipoff.