KINGSPORT, Tenn. — The University of Rio Grande scored the game’s first 11 points and then survived a second half run by Keiser (Fla.) University to nail down a 67-59 win over the Seahawks, Sunday morning, in the final round of the NAIA DII Show at the MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort and Convention Center.
Rio Grande, which won for a third straight time, evened its season record at 4-4.
The RedStorm also recorded their first perfect finish in the event’s four-year history.
Keiser, a member of The Sun Conference, slipped to 1-6 with the loss.
The Seahawks rough start to the season came after they were among the teams receiving votes in the preseason coaches’ Top 25 poll.
Rio Grande bolted to an 11-0 lead out of the gate and led by as many as 16 points late in the first half before settling for a 14-point cushion, 39-25, at the intermission.
The RedStorm lead still stood at 11 points, 51-40, following a pair of free throws by junior Hadith Tiggs (Mayfield Heights, OH) with 10:11 left in the contest, but Keiser proceeded to score 11 of the game’s next 15 points and sliced the deficit to just four, 55-51, after a layup by Javen Soto with 6:29 remaining.
Rio responded with a 10-2 run of its own, capped by a pair of free throws by freshman Gunner Short (Catlettsburg, KY) following a technical foul against the Keiser bench with 1:56 left, to take control for good.
Short led the RedStorm with 16 points and seven assists, while senior Earl Russell (Warrington, England) posted his second straight double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Russell also blocked a pair of shots.
Rio Grande, which played without the services of injured sophomore guard Trey Kelley (Minford, OH), also got 10 points from junior Cameron Schreiter (Mason, OH) – including consecutive buckets in the late-game stretch after the Seahawks had pulled to within four.
Keiser was led by Andrija Matic, who had 10 of his 14 points in the second half.
Marko Radulovic added 13 points and a game-best 13 rebounds in a losing cause for the Seahawks, who never recovered from a 7-for-30 shooting performance (23.3%) in the first half.
Rio Grande returns to action on Wednesday night when it travels to No. 2-ranked Indiana University East for its River States Conference opener.
The Red Wolves also participated in the DII Show and posted wins over Reinhardt (Ga.) and Warner (Fla.)
Tipoff on Wednesday is slated for 7:30 p.m.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.