MARION, Ind. — Taylor University nearly coughed up a 12-point first half lead, but the Trojans rallied down the stretch and pulled away for a 76-55 win over the University of Rio Grande, Friday night, in the Leah Whittaker Memorial Classic at Indiana Wesleyan University’s Luckey Arena.
The Trojans, ranked 14th in NAIA Division II, improved to 9-1 with the victory.
Rio Grande suffered its sixth straight loss at slipped to 2-7.
The RedStorm cut a 12-point first half deficit to just one, 43-42, after a bucket by sophomore forward Tinesha Taylor with 15:20 remaining, but got no closer the rest of the way.
Head coach David Smalley’s team still trailed just 55-50 after another basket by Taylor with 10:48 left in the contest, but managed only two field goals – both by senior guard Shardai Morrison-Fountain – the rest of the way.
Rio Grande was its own worst enemy from start to finish.
The RedStorm forced Taylor into a season-high 26 turnovers, but committed 28 turnovers of their own – 14 in each half.
And on the heels of a 14-for-29 performance from the free throw line in last Saturday’s loss at the University of Pikeville, Rio connected on just seven of its 18 tries from the charity stripe (38.9 percent) against the Trojans.
Taylor survived its inability to hang on to the ball by shooting 50.9 percent from the field (27-for-53) and going 18-for-25 from the free throw line. The Trojans also enjoyed a 42-31 edge in rebounding.
Tess Rudolph scored a game-high 18 points to lead Taylor, while Erin Guarneri finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Erika Redweik added 12 points and Kelsey Bryant handed out six assists in the winning effort.
Morrison-Fountain scored 17 points to lead Rio Grande, while Taylor contributed a season-high 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Rio Grande concludes its weekend road trip on Saturday afternoon when it faces tourney host Indiana Wesleyan in a 3 p.m. tipoff. The Wildcats, who are ranked No. 2 in NAIA Division II, defeated Rochester (MI) College, 60-44, in Friday’s opening game.