RIO GRANDE, Ohio — On a night when it had the opportunity to make headway in the River States Conference East Division standings, the University of Rio Grande men’s basketball failed to put two halves together and get the job done.
Indiana University Kokomo rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit to defeat the RedStorm, 97-88, Thursday night, at the Newt Oliver Arena.
The Cougars, who posted their first win against Rio in six all-time meetings with the RedStorm, evened their overall record at 11-11 while improving to 7-3 in conference play.
Rio Grande, which suffered a second straight loss, slipped to 9-13 overall and 4-7 in the RSC.
The RedStorm remained in fourth place in the league’s East Division, two games behind second place West Virginia Tech and one game in back of third place Carlow University – both of whom also lost on Thursday night.
A win by Ohio Christian – coupled with Rio’s loss – now has the RedStorm with just a half-game lead on the Trailblazers for fourth place in the East Division.
The top four teams in each division qualify for the RSC Tournament beginning on Feb. 21.
Rio Grande rallied from an early six-point deficit on Thursday night and led by as many as 12 points late in the first half before settling on a 50-42 cushion at the intermission.
The RedStorm shot 51.5 percent from the floor (17-for-33) and committed just two turnovers in the opening half.
But the second half proved to be a different story.
Rio shot just 35 percent after the break, while IUK shot a sizzling 68 percent overall (17-for-25), including a 16-for-20 performance (80 percent) from two-point range.
The Cougars opened the second half on a 9-1 run to cut the deficit to just one point before regaining the lead, 57-56, after a steal and a basket by Antoin Clifton with 15:46 left to play.
There were two ties and eight lead changes over the next 5-1/2 minutes before IUK took the lead for good, 71-69, on a three-pointer by Trequan Spivey with 10:19 remaining.
Spivey’s trifecta kickstarted a 7-0 run for the Cougars which produced a six-point lead with just under nine minutes left and Rio got no closer than two points – on two different occasions – the rest of the way.
The second of those two occasions came at 86-84 after a bucket by sophomore Stanley Christian (Norfolk, VA) with 3:24 left in the game, but IUK finished on an 11-4 run to win going away.
Akil McClain paced four double-digit scorers for the Cougars with a career-high 28 points, while Clifton finished with 21 points to compliment a team-high seven rebounds and two steals.
Eddie Miles had 15 points to go along with a team-high four assists and Durante Lee had 14 points in the winning effort for IUK, which played without its leading scorer, Trent Elliott (16.1 ppg).
Miles and Lee had 24 of their 29 combined points in the second half and both also finished with two blocked shots each.
Senior guard Will Hill (Worthington, OH) had a game-high 31 points to pace Rio Grande. He connected on five of his seven three-pointers in the first half, but went just 1-for-10 from two-point range in the contest.
Christian had 19 points to go along with a game-high 11 rebounds and two blocked shots, while senior Kenny Council (Jacksonville, FL) tallied 12 points, senior guard Devon Price (Pickerington, OH) had six assists and freshman Jaxon Burgess (Louisville, KY) had three steals in a losing cause.
Rio Grande returns to action on Saturday when it hosts Cincinnati Christian in another RSC contest. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.