RIO GRANDE, Ohio — For the most part, turnovers have not been an issue for the University of Rio Grande men’s basketball team this season.
Free throw shooting, on the other hand, has been season-long problem for the RedStorm.
On Tuesday night, a combination of both proved to be the undoing for second-year head coach Ryan Arrowood’s club.
Rio Grande committed a season-high 18 turnovers and misfired on four free throw chances inside the final minute in a 59-56 loss to Indiana University East in River States Conference play at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Rio Grande slipped to 12-12 overall and 6-6 in league play with the loss, dropping one game behind IU East in the RSC East Division standings and — at least for the time being — out of the running for a first-round home game in the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament at month’s end.
The Red Wolves improved to 12-12 overall and moved to 7-5 in the RSC with the win — their 13th in as many all-time meetings the RedStorm.
Rio Grande, which entered the game among the nation’s leaders in fewest turnovers per game at just 9.7 per contest, saw their multitude of miscues produce a 21-9 advantage for the visitors in points off of turnovers.
In addition, the RedStorm — which was shooting just 63.5 percent at the free throw line for the season — missed three free throw tries in the final 55 seconds and had a fourth wiped out as a result of a lane violation on an intentional miss while trailing by the final three-point margin.
Rio had connected on 10 of its first 12 shots at the charity stripe in the contest.
The RedStorm jumped to an eight-point lead, 21-13, just over 11 minutes into the game, but the Red Wolves responded with a 12-0 run over a span of nearly five minutes to take a four-point advantage and grab a lead they would never relinquish.
IUE twice pushed its lead to eight points after the break, the last of which came at 55-47 following a bucket by Garrett Silcott with 6:20 remaining, but Rio Grande refused to go away quietly and reeled off seven straight points — capped by a conventional three-point play by freshman Khamani Smith (Fort Wayne, IN) — to draw within 55-54 at the 3:58 mark.
Sophomore Miki Tadic (Hilversum, The Netherlands) once again got the RedStorm within one, 57-56, by connecting on a jumper with 3:15 left to play, but those would prove to be the final Rio points of the night.
Silcott scored again with 1:21 remaining to make it 59-56, setting the stage for the gut-wrenching finish.
Sophomore Shiloah Blevins (South Webster, OH) missed two free throw attempts with 55.7 seconds left, but the RedStorm caught a break and regained possession thanks to a shot clock violation by the Red Wolves with 25.3 seconds to play.
Freshman Caleb Wallis (Jackson, OH) missed the first of two free throw tries with 8.0 seconds left and Blevins was whistled for a lane violation when Wallis intentionally missed his second attempt giving the ball back to IU East.
Jamisen Smith missed the front end of a one-and-bonus free throw situation with 6.0 seconds left and Wallis snared the rebound to give Rio one last chance, but a desperation heave by Tadic from the left wing in front of the RedStorm bench was short as time expired.
Smith had 15 points and eight rebounds to pace East in the win, while Silcott and Justin Williams finished with 13 and 10 points, respectively. Silcott also had a team-high four assists and Williams had three steals.
Blevins had 15 points and two blocked shots for Rio, while Smith tallied 13 points in a losing cause. Sophomore Taylor Mack (Akron, OH) added eight rebounds and three assists, while freshman Exauce Manissa (Point Noire, The Congo) had three blocks.
Tadic, the RedStorm’s leading scorer for the season at 17.2 points per game, was limited to seven points in 31 minutes of action — the second straight outing in which he failed to reach double figures.
Rio Grande is slated to return to action on Thursday against RSC East Division-leading West Virginia University-Tech in Beckley, W.Va.
Tipoff has been moved up to 5 p.m. as a result of the forecast of impending winter weather.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director for the University of Rio Grande.