CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio – For the University of Rio Grande men’s basketball team to have any realistic hopes of earning a post-season berth, a win in Saturday afternoon’s game at Ohio Christian University was paramount.
The RedStorm responded with the program’s best single-game defensive effort in more than five years.
Head coach Ken French’s squad built a 17-point halftime lead and maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way en route to a 66-46 rout of the Trailblazers in River States Conference action at the Maxwell Center.
Rio Grande ended a three-game losing streak, improving to 10-17 overall and 4-10 inside the RSC with the win.
The victory also gave the RedStorm a two-game lead over OCU for the fourth and final post-season berth out of the league’s East Division with three games left to play. Any combination of Rio wins or OCU losses totaling two will secure a spot in the RSC Tournament for Rio.
Ohio Christian dropped to 6-20 overall and 2-12 in league play with an eighth straight loss.
The 46 points scored by the Trailblazers were the fewest by an OCU team since an 86-47 loss to the University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) on Nov. 9, 2016 and the fewest allowed by a Rio team since a 100-38 rout of Ohio University-Chillicothe on Nov. 7, 2014.
OCU also shot just 29.3 percent from the floor (17-for-58) – the lowest percentage by an opponent of the RedStorm since OU-Chillicothe shot just 22.7 percent in the aforementioned 2014 loss.
The Trailblazers trailed just 13-9 after a conventional three-point play by Troy Mundy with 12:50 left in the first half, but Rio went on a 17-2 run – capped by the stickback of an offensive rebound by junior Greg Wallace (Montego Bay, Jamaica) – to take a commanding 30-11 cushion with 8:04 remaining before the intermission.
The RedStorm settled on a 37-20 lead at the break before taking their largest lead of 21 points, 45-24, after a three-pointer by sophomore Kyle Lamotte (Mason, OH) with 14:56 left in the contest.
Ohio Christian twice closed the deficit to 13 points, including 56-43 after a bucket by Justin Barksdale with 5:09 remaining, but got no closer the rest of the way.
Lamotte finished with a game-high 21 points to go along with seven rebounds and a trio of blocked shots. Junior Cameron Schreiter (Mason, OH) chipped in with 14 points and a game-best four assists, while senior Earl Russell (Warrington, England) had nine points, a game-high 11 rebounds and three blocked shots of his own.
Rio Grande shot 45.7 percent from the floor (26-for-57) and enjoyed a 40-31 edge in rebounding.
Barksdale led Ohio Christian with 15 points, nine rebounds, four blocked shots, three assists and two steals, while Mundy had 11 points in a losing cause.
Rio Grande returns to action on Tuesday night, traveling to Pittsburgh, Pa. to face Point Park University. Tipoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.