RICHMOND, Ind. — Admittedly, among the nine losses that the University of Rio Grande women’s basketball team had accrued through its first 25 games, were five or six contests that the RedStorm could have — and probably should have — emerged victorious.
But Tuesday night’s game at Indiana University East, which produced a 10th loss for head coach David Smalley’s club, was one that may prove haunting for some time to come.
Rio Grande squandered a 20-point second quarter lead, as the host Red Wolves rallied for an 87-80 win in River States Conference play at Lingle Court.
The RedStorm, who entered Tuesday night’s matchup with wins in four of their previous five outings and seven of their last 10, slipped to 16-10 overall and 8-4 in the RSC with the loss.
IU East, which dropped an 86-79 decision at Rio on January 4, upped its record to 8-18 overall and 6-6 in league play.
The Red Wolves appeared as if they would be the ones being devoured after the RedStorm reeled off 17 straight points at one stretch en route to a 36-17 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Freshman Kaylie Apperson (McConnelsville, OH) fueled Rio’s blistering start by connecting on all five of her three-point goals in the opening period.
Fellow frosh Samaria Rodgers-Gossett (Columbus, OH), who finished with a career-high 12 points of her own, connected on one of two free throw attempts just 39 seconds into the second stanza to give the RedStorm their seemingly insurmountable 20-point cushion but, somewhere along the line, the memo that told the hosts they were supposed to go away quietly never got delivered to the IUE bench.
A 15-2 spurt following the Rodgers-Gossett free throw pulled the Red Wolves within 39-32, although Rio did restore a 13-point edge by halftime, 50-37.
But IUE continued its surge — and then some — in the second half.
The Wolves tied the score at 56-all thanks to a bucket by Megan Harlow — her only field goal of the night — with 4:36 remaining in the third quarter, but Rio got eight straight points from sophomore Avery Harper (Seaman, OH) to regain a 64-56 cushion with 2:51 left in the period.
IUE finished the stanza on 8-0 run to knot the score again and then took a 66-64 lead — its first advantage since 2-0 — on a layup by Reagan Hune with 9:15 left to play.
Rio Grande managed to tie the game three more times after than, but never led again.
The Red Wolves posted an 11-3 run after the last of the three deadlocks, culminated by an Addie Brown free throw with 2:07 remaining following a technical foul that was assessed to Smalley, to take their largest lead of the night, 81-73.
Rio got no closer than four points (twice) from that point on, as IUE went 6-for-8 at the charity stripe over the final 28.1 seconds to nail down the come-from-behind win.
Brown had 24 points to lead the Red Wolves, while Kamiylah Bomar netted 17 points and Hune had 16 points, six steals and three assists in the winning effort.
Zikaya Wright also had seven rebounds and two blocks for IUE.
In addition to Apperson and Rodgers-Gossett, Rio Grande had four players finish in double figures.
Harper equaled Apperson’s team-high of 15 points, freshman Lexi Woods (Waverly, OH) netted 11 points, while the duo of senior Sydney Holden (Wheelersburg, OH) and freshman Hailey Jordan (Columbus, OH) contributed 10 points each.
Jordan also had a game-high 10 rebounds, while Holden also had nine rebounds and seven assists.
The RedStorm shot just 30 percent in the second half after notching a 58 percent clip prior to halftime and also committed 23 turnovers — 13 of which came after the break.
Rio Grande returns to action on Saturday afternoon when Ohio Christian University visits the Newt Oliver Arena for a 1 p.m. tipoff.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.