WILMORE, Ky. — Asbury University’s Clif Conley canned a go-ahead three-pointer with 2:34 left to play and teammate Deion Cochran came up with a crucial offensive rebound in the closing seconds to lift the Eagles past the University of Rio Grande, 76-71, Tuesday night, in River States Conference men’s basketball action at the Luce Physical Education Building.
Asbury, which continues to be among the teams receiving votes in the NAIA DII Coaches’ Poll, improved to 13-7 overall and 6-4 in the RSC.
Rio Grande had a two-game winning streak snapped, falling to 9-13 overall and 4-6 in league play.
The last of Conley’s five trifectas in the contest gave the Eagles a 69-66 lead – a lead they wouldn’t relinquish – in a game which featured 12 ties and 11 lead changes.
Cochran’s key rebound came with 18 seconds remaining in the game and Asbury in front, 73-71, after Conley misfired on another three-point attempt. He raced to the corner to save the ball from going out of bounds and, as he jumped toward the bleachers, fired the ball back inbounds to teammate Will Henderson, who was fouled with 14.3 seconds left.
Henderson connected on both free throw attempts to essentially seal the win for the Eagles.
Rio Grande senior Will Hill (Worthington, OH) had a three-point attempt blocked on the RedStorm’s ensuing possession and Asbury’s Trenton Thompson hit one of two free throws with 3.8 seconds remaining to set the final score.
Rio’s largest lead in the nip-and-tuck affair was four points, 16-12, after a three-pointer by freshman Jaxon Burgess (Louisville, KY), while the Eagles enjoyed the game’s biggest cushion, 35-28, following a layup by Dave McCorvey with 4:09 left before the intermission.
The RedStorm rallied, though, and grabbed a 39-38 halftime lead after Hill connected on a three-pointer with four seconds left before the break.
From that point on, neither team led by more than five points.
Rio Grande actually finished four more total field goals than their hosts, 27-23, and only one less three-pointer (9-8), but Asbury ended the night with a 21-9 edge in scoring from the free throw line.
The Eagles finished 21-for-28 at the charity strip, while the RedStorm failed to get into the bonus until the 3:32 mark of the second half and finished 9-for-11 at the line.
Hill led Rio with a game-high 27 points and two steals, while junior Abe Eze (Lagos, Nigeria) tossed in 12 points. Sophomore Stanley Christian (Norfolk, VA) and senior Kenny Council (Jacksonville, FL) shared team rebounding honors with six and Christian added a team-high four assists.
Thompson scored 25 points to lead Asbury’s winning effort, 18 of which came in the first half. He also had a game-best eight rebounds and three blocked shots.
Conley and Henderson finished with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Henderson, who had 11 of his points in the second half and eight after Conley’s go-ahead three-pointer, also had a game-best five assists.
Rio Grande returns to action on Thursday night when Indiana University Kokomo visits for a River States Conference matchup. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.