RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Arthur Haggard scored 17 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, leading Wilberforce University from a 13-point second half deficit to an 86-82 win over the University of Rio Grande in the opening round of the Bevo Francis Tournament, Friday night, at the Newt Oliver Arena.
The Bulldogs snapped a seven-game losing streak with the win, improving to 2-7 and advancing to Saturday’s 1 p.m. championship game against Mount Vernon Nazarene, which outgunned Indiana University Northwest, 100-88, in Friday’s other semifinal.
Rio Grande, which dropped to 0-5 with the loss, will face the RedHawks in the consolation game on Saturday at 5 p.m.
The RedStorm looked primed to record their first win of the year in their home opener, using a 12-2 run over the final 1:54 of the first half to take a 50-40 lead at the intermission.
The advantage grew to as many as 13 points, after sophomore Stanley Christian (Norfolk, VA) hit one of two free throws to make it 55-42 with 18:29 remaining in the contest, but that’s when the Bulldogs began their comeback.
Wilberforce scored 17 of the game’s next 19 points in a span of just over six minutes and grabbed a 59-57 lead on a Malik Breckenbridge three-pointer with 12:22 left to play.
The Bulldogs extended the run to 24-4 and grabbed their largest lead of the game, 66-59, on a bucket by Austin Daniels with 10:19 left to play – the first of three occasions that the visitors would lead by seven points.
Rio Grande mounted a rally of its own, though, after the last of those seven-point deficits with a 10-2 run capped by consecutive buckets by senior Kenny Council (Jacksonville, FL) which produced a 75-74 lead with 3:24 remaining.
Haggard answered with consecutive baskets of his own on each of the next two Wilberforce possessions and the Bulldogs never trailed again.
Christian hit a pair of free throws with 1:49 left to put Rio within one, 78-77, but they got no closer the rest of the way.
Haggard scored 11 of Wilberforce’s final 12 points, including a pair of free throws with six-tenths of a second remaining, to seal the win.
Daniels added 15 points to the winning effort for the Bulldogs, while Torien Moore and Breckenbridge finished with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Wilberforce shot 58.9 percent from the field (33-for-56) for the game, including a sizzling 18-for-25 (72 percent) in the second half.
Rio shot a respectable 45.5 percent for the game (30-for-66) and enjoyed a whopping 40-27 edge in rebounding in a see-saw affair that featured 14 ties and as many lead changes.
Christian had a game-best 19 points and nine rebounds in the loss for the RedStorm, while junior Abe Eze (Lagos, Nigeria) netted a season-high 16 points and freshman Trey Kelley (Minford, OH) finished with a career-high 14 points.
Senior Will Hill (Worthington, OH) and Council finished with 12 and 10 points, respectively, in a losing cause for Rio. Hill also had eight rebounds and a game-high four steals, while fellow senior Devon Price (Pickerington, OH) handed out a game-high six assists.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.