RIO GRANDE, Ohio — On a night when its offense sputtered in stretches, the University of Rio Grande women’s basketball team turned to its defense to make Brescia University pay for nearly every mistake that it made.
The RedStorm parlayed an avalanche of turnovers by the Bearcats into 38 points and cruised to a 104-74 victory in River States Conference action, Thursday night, at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Rio Grande, now ranked 22nd nationally in the NAIA Coaches’ Top 25 poll, improved to 25-2 overall and 13-1 in the RSC with the win.
Brescia suffered a 10th consecutive loss, falling to 3-22 overall and 2-14 in league play.
The Bearcats shot the ball better than they do on most nights, both from the field and from the free throw line, but their turnovers — 14 of which came in the first half — helped Rio Grande open up a 55-33 halftime lead.
Brescia finished with 24 turnovers overall, helping the RedStorm to a decisive 38-12 advantage in points off of turnovers.
The Bearcats tried to make things interesting in the opening stages of the third quarter, though, and sliced the deficit down to 12 points, 59-47, after Courtney Peyton hit one of two free throw attempts with 6:17 remaining in the period.
However, the RedStorm survived the flurry and regained the same 22-point advantage it enjoyed at the break — 79-57 — entering the final stanza.
Freshman Kaeli Ross (Flatwoods, KY) played a big role in Rio weathering the storm, connecting on all three of her three-point goals in the final three minutes of the period.
Rio Grande extended its lead to as many as 34 points, 97-63, after a pair of free throws by junior Mickale Bates (Pickerington, OH) with 4:16 left to play before settling on its 30-point margin of victory.
All 14 players in uniform for the RedStorm scored, including four in double figures.
Freshman Kaylee Darnell (Wheelersburg, OH), fresh off a triple-double performance in Tuesday’s win over Carlow, led the quartet with 18 points. She also had five rebounds, a game-high four steals, three assists and a blocked shot in the winning effort.
Junior Reagan Willingham (Ashville, OH) added 15 points off the bench — her third straight outing with 10 or more points — while fellow juniors Hailey Jordan (Columbus, OH) and Ella Skeens (Chillicothe, OH) tossed in 14 points each.
Jordan snared a game-high eight rebounds, while Bates had a team-high four assists and Skeens blocked two shots.
Rio Grande finished 37-for-70 overall (52.9%), connecting on seven three-pointers in the process and going 23-for-29 at the free throw line (79.3%).
The RedStorm also enjoyed a 42-29 edge in rebounding.
Brescia got 15 points in a losing cause from Jacqueline Jackson, while Riley Collins and Hallie Fisher added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Fisher also tallied a team-high five rebounds and a game-high five assists, while Collins also had five rebounds.
The Bearcats shot 41.7 percent overall (25-for-60) and finished 20-of-24 at the charity stripe (83.3%).
Rio Grande is scheduled to return to action on Saturday afternoon when it visits Point Park University.
Game time is set for 3 p.m. at the CCAC-Allegheny Campus Gymnasium. Fans are not permitted to attend due to the school’s current COVID-19 policy.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director for the University of Rio Grande.