RIO GRANDE, Ohio — With just under seven minutes left to play, the University of Rio Grande found itself in a one possession game against one of the best teams in NAIA Division II.
But in a span of a little more than 3-1/2 minutes, any thoughts that head coach Ken French’s squad had of recording a upset victory quietly faded into the night.
Akil McClain had a game-high 24 points and nine rebounds, while Allante Harper added 16 points of his own off the bench to lead 12th-ranked Indiana University Kokomo past the RedStorm, 67-57, Thursday night, in River States Conference men’s basketball action at the Newt Oliver Arena.
The Cougars improved to 19-4 overall and 8-1 in league play with the win, their third straight against Rio Grande after losing the first five games in the all-time series between the two programs.
The RedStorm slipped to 11-14 overall and 4-7 in the RSC with the loss.
Rio Grande trailed just 28-24 at halftime and found itself within 49-46 after a layup by sophomore Gunner Short (Catlettsburg, KY) with 6:51 left in the game, but IUK reeled off nine of the game’s next 11 points to open up a 58-48 advantage following a bucket by Desean Hampton with 3:04 remaining in the contest.
The RedStorm got no closer than five points the rest of the way.
After drawing as close as 58-53 following a layup by freshman Shiloah Blevins (South Webster, OH) with 2:19 left, Rio went 0-for-5 from the floor and managed only two offensive rebounds over its final seven possessions.
The Cougars’ 10-point margin of victory matched their largest lead of the game.
IUK shot 54.5 percent from the floor in the second half (12-for-22) and connected at a 48 percent clip for the game.
In addition to the performances of McClain and Harper, the Cougars also got six points, six rebounds and six blocked shots from Hampton.
Rio Grande outrebounded its guests, 34-34, but shot just 37 percent overall (19-for-51).
Short was the RedStorm’s only double-digit scorer with 18 points. He also had a team-high three assists, two blocked shots and two steals.
Blevins snared a team-best nine rebounds in a losing cause, while junior Bobby Anderson (Catlettsburg, KY) tied Short for team honors with three assists.
Rio Grande returns to action on Tuesday night when it travels to Richmond, Ind. to face Indiana University East.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.