MONTGOMERY, W.Va. — On the heels of consecutive narrow losses at home to the teams directly above them in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Colonial Division standings, the University of Rio Grande men’s basketball team responded with one of their most complete performances of the season.
Senior Dwayne Bazemore had a game-high 18 points and 11 rebounds to pace four RedStorm players in double figures and lead an 81-68 win over West Virginia University Tech, Tuesday night, at the Neal Baisi Athletic Center.
Rio Grande, which had a nine-game winning streak snapped in a three-point loss to the Golden Bears just 12 days earlier, upped its record to 15-6 overall and 5-2 in the KIAC with the victory.
Tech, which learned just before tipoff that it had slipped out of the NAIA Division Top 25, suffered a second straight loss in falling to 13-8 overall and 5-3 in league play.
As a result of the victory, Rio Grande also grabbed sole possession of second place in KIAC Colonial, two games behind division-leading Indiana University East whom the RedStorm will face on Saturday afternoon.
Tuesday’s matchup was a see-saw affair early on, with four ties and seven lead changes inside the first 10 minutes of the contest.
The Golden Bears grabbed what proved to be their largest lead of the night, 23-19, following a pair of Ryan Atkins with 9:12 left in the opening half, but Rio countered with a 10-4 run of its own over the next 3:14 and regained the lead, 29-27, after a three-pointer by senior Travis Elliott (Ironton, OH) with 5:58 remaining before the half.
Tech tied the game again following a jumper by Eddie Gordon on its ensuing possession, but a layup by senior D.D. Joiner (Columbus, OH) with 4:21 left in the first half put the RedStorm back in front.
It was a lead that head coach Ken French’s squad would not reliquish.
Rio Grande pushed its advantage to six points at halftime and into double figures, 52-42, following a three-pointer by junior Corey Cruse (Fort Mitchell, KY) with 15:12 remaining in the contest.
The RedStorm’s lead twice dwindled to four points, including 70-66 after a trifecta by Matthew Kallead with 2:59 left, but Rio closed the game on an 11-2 run to take its largest cushion of the night with the final margin of victory.
Bazemore, a senior center from Columbus, Ohio, did all of his damage in just 17 minutes of playing time. He connected on eight of his nine field goal attempts, including his third three-pointer of the year.
Cruse equaled a season-high with 15 points in the winning effort, while senior Kevonta Black (Nashville, TN) added 13 points, eight assists and seven rebounds and Joiner tallied 11 points, eight rebounds and a team-high three steals.
WVU-Tech got 14 points apiece from Atkins, Gordon and Paul Stone, while Kallead and Juwaun Wilson had 10 points each in a losing cause. Gordon also had a team-best four assists and two steals, while Stone had a game-high three blocked shots.
Patrick Gnagbo snared a team-high 11 rebounds for the Golden Bears, who were limited to just a 35.5 percent success rate from the field (27-for-76).
Saturday’s game against IU-East – which knocked off Rio, 74-71, on Jan. 16 at the Newt Oliver Arena – is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Richmond High School’s Tiernan Center in Richmond, Ind.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.