RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Visiting Mount Vernon Nazarene University used a 10-0 first half run to erase a three-point deficit and the Cougars went on to post a 97-78 win over the University of Rio Grande in the men’s division championship of the 33rd Annual Bevo Francis Tournament, Saturday night, at the Newt Oliver Arena.
The Cougars, who improved to 4-3, avenged a 10-point loss at home to the RedStorm one week earlier.
Rio Grande suffered its second loss in its last three outings, falling to 5-3 overall.
The RedStorm jumped out to a seven-point lead just under three minutes into the game and held a 28-25 advantage after a jumper by senior Kevonta Black (Nashville, TN) with a little more than 8-1/2 minutes left in the first half, when Mount Vernon reeled off 10 straight points to take a seven-point lead of its own.
It was a lead the Cougars would never relinquish.
Rio Grande closed the gap to just five, 44-39, following a pair of free throws by D.D. Joiner with 2:38 left before the intermission, but got no closer the rest of the way.
Mount Vernon led by eight points at the break and pushed the advantage to as many as 24 points, 90-66, with 5:04 left in the game.
The Cougars, who shot 55.6 percent in the second half (20-for-36) and 52 percent for the game, had five players finish in double figures.
Eric Roby led the quintet with 25 points, while Joey Schmitz had 19, Brett Vipperman netted 16 and the duo of Cliff Bussey and Josh Ashwill tallied 13 points each. Ashwill also had a team-high seven rebounds and a game-best four assists.
Joiner finished with a game-high 33 points in a losing cause for the RedStorm, while senior Dwayne Bazemore (Columbus, OH) had 14 points and 13 rebounds and sophomore Will Hill (Worthington, OH) finished with 11 points.
Rio Grande will return to action on Saturday, Nov. 28, against No. 23 Southeastern (Fla.) in the opening round of the NAIA Division II Showcase in Kingsport, Tenn.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.