FORT WAYNE, Ind. — The University of Saint Francis ran off 17 consecutive points over a six-minute span in the second half to pull away for a 65-54 win over the University of Rio Grande, Sunday night, in non-conference men’s basketball action at the Hutzell Athletic Center.
The Cougars, who were ranked 20th in the latest NAIA Coaches’ Top 25, improved to 10-1 with the victory.
Rio Grande dropped to 5-5 with the loss.
The RedStorm, who failed to maintain separate leads of 11 points and seven points in the opening half, found themselves trailing just 48-45 after a jumper by sophomore Shiloah Blevins (South Webster, OH) with 11:54 remaining in the contest, but the Cougars followed with the game’s next 17 points over a stretch of 6:06 to open up a 20-point advantage.
Rio Grande went 0-for-7 from the floor and committed five turnovers during the game-changing swing.
As things turned out, USF failed to score another point over the final 5:48.
But the RedStorm went on to go scoreless for another 2-1/2 minutes before finally following up the bucket by Blevins with a three-point goal by freshman Caleb Wallis (Jackson, OH) with 3:18 left in the game.
Rio missed two more shots and had three more turnovers before Wallis’ trifecta – a basket which started a 9-0 game-ending run for the RedStorm.
Runs by both teams provided the driving narrative throughout the contest.
Rio jumped out to a 24-13 lead just under nine minutes into the game, but the Cougars responded with a 13-0 run to take a 26-24 lead on a layup by Jalan Mull with 6:51 left in the first half.
The RedStorm then reeled off nine straight points to regain a 33-26 advantage following a three-pointer by sophomore Miki Tadic (Hilversum, The Netherlands) with 3:52 remaining before halftime.
USF scored the final seven points of the half to forge a 33-all deadlock at the intermission, before one of the game’s seven lead changes and three of its six ties preceded the Cougars’ victory-producing spurt.
USF shot just 35.8 percent for the game (24-for-67) and was out rebounded, 43-35, but kept itself in command with only six turnovers.
Rio Grande, on the other hand, shot just 25.8 percent in the second half (8-for-31) and committed 10 of their 14 turnovers after halftime, helping the Cougars to a commanding 19-4 edge in points off of turnovers.
Antwaan Cushingberry had a game-high 22 points and six assists for Saint Francis, while Mull had 15 points and a game-best seven steals.
Jeffrey Reynolds added a game-high 11 rebounds in the Cougars’ winning effort.
Tadic had 15 points to lead Rio Grande, while Wallis and fellow frosh Andrew Shull (Milton, WV) netted 11 points each.
Tadic and Wallis shared team honors with four assists each, while freshman Redeetris Richardson (Atlanta, GA) had nine rebounds and Blevins blocked two shots.
The RedStorm return to action in a non-conference game at Asbury University on Jan. 2.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.