RIO GRANDE, Ohio — It’s no coincidence that the success enjoyed of late by the University of Rio Grande men’s basketball team has been fueled by solid defensive play.
The RedStorm put their best effort on display Saturday afternoon against the hottest team in the River States Conference.
Head coach Ryan Arrowood’s club closed the game on a 31-9 run and routed visiting Asbury University, 82-49, at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Rio Grande improved to 10-6 with a fifth consecutive victory.
Asbury, which had a seven-game winning streak of its own snapped, fell to 11-3 with the loss.
The Eagles, who entered the game ranked second nationally in 3-Point FG percentage (43.1%) and 14th in three-point goals per game (10.8), went just 3-for-22 from distance on Saturday.
The 49 points scored were the fewest by an Asbury team since at 68-49 loss at Centre College on Dec. 17, 2009.
Rio Grande, which has allowed an average of just 54.3 points per game over its last three contests, also forced the Eagles into 16 turnovers, producing a 24-7 advantage in points off of turnovers.
The RedStorm, whose only deficit in the game was 2-0 just 50 seconds in, led by as many as 20 points in the first half before settling on a 37-25 edge at the intermission.
Asbury twice sliced the deficit to 11 points after the break, including 51-40 following a steal and subsequent layup by Eric Powell with 11:35 remaining, but managed just nine points the rest of the day.
Rio Grande’s largest lead of the contest came with the game’s final margin of victory.
Sophomore Shiloah Blevins (South Webster, OH), who missed the RedStorm’s 76-65 loss at Asbury on Jan. 2 while recovering from dental surgery, had 21 points to lead the winning effort, including a pair of thunderous second-half slam dunks.
Freshman Caleb Wallis (Jackson, OH) scored a career-high 16 points and tied for game-high honors with four assists in the victory, while sophomore Miki Tadic (Hilversum, The Netherlands) had 14 points to go along with a game- and career-high 10 rebounds and four assists of his own.
Rio also got four assists and a game-high three steals from freshman Andrew Shull (Milton, WV).
The RedStorm shot 54 percent from the floor in the second half (19-for-35) and finished the game 34-for-67 (50.7%).
Rio also enjoyed a 39-33 advantage in rebounding and committed just seven turnovers.
Asbury, which was averaging just over 81 points per game, finished the day shooting 35.6 percent overall (21-for-59).
Leander Ridgeway had 21 points and eight rebounds in a losing cause for the Eagles, who lost to Rio for just the third time in 10 all-time meetings.
Nick Fort added 11 points for AU, while Powell tallied 10 points and a pair of steals.
Rio Grande is scheduled to return to action on Wednesday when it travels to Marion, Indiana to face top-ranked Indiana Wesleyan University.
The Wildcats sport a 21-1 record and are led by reigning national Player of the Year Kyle Mangus.
IWU also ranked third nationally in scoring at just over 99 points per game.
Wednesday’s tipoff is set for 5 p.m.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.