RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Three games into the 2020-21 season, one thing has become abundantly clear in regard to the University of Rio Grande women’s basketball team.
If the RedStorm doesn’t learn to take better care of the basketball, success is going to be hard to come by.
Asbury University parlayed 27 Rio Grande turnovers into 30 points and the Eagles pulled away for a 104-87 victory over the RedStorm in the opening game of the Bevo Francis Classic, Thursday night, at an empty Newt Oliver Arena.
School officials announced earlier in the day that fans were prohibited from attending any of the seven games that comprise the Classic.
Asbury, like Rio Grande a member of the River States Conference, improved to 2-2 with a win which did not count toward the league standings.
The RedStorm dropped to 0-3 with the loss.
Rio Grande – which averaged 27.5 turnovers per game through its first two outings – actually shot a better percentage from the field than the Eagles (44.0% to 42.7%) and also enjoyed a commanding 57-38 advantage in rebounds, but the high volume of miscues allowed Asbury a 30-7 edge in points off of turnovers.
Still, the RedStorm sliced a 13-point deficit to just five, 78-73, following consecutive three-pointers by sophomore Regan Willingham (Ashville, OH) with 7:03 remaining in the contest.
But the Eagles held off the Rio comeback attempt by responding with a 12-4 run of its own over the next three minutes to push the lead back to 13 points, 90-77, after a bucket by Jaclynn Ruble with 4:00 left.
Asbury led by no less than nine points the rest of the way and built its biggest lead of the night – 17 points – twice in the final 1:12, including the final margin of victory.
Zaria Napier led the Eagles with a team-best 22 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots.
Autumn Herriford led four others in double figures for Asbury with 14 points. Paige Taylor and Ruble added 13 points and 12 points, respectively, in the winning effort, while Faith Osborne tossed in 10 points.
Ruble and Osborne also had five steals apiece for the Eagles, who totaled 21 steals as a team among the 27 Rio turnovers.
Asbury also hit 11 three-pointers as a team and outscored the RedStorm, 23-16, at the free throw line. The Eagles attempted 18 more shots at the charity strip than their hosts.
The loss overshadowed a tremendous performance from Rio Grande sophomore Lexi Woods (Waverly, OH), who had a game-high 30 points and a career-high-tying 17 rebounds.
Senior Chyna Chambers (Columbus, OH) added 12 points, a game-high nine assists and seven rebounds, while junior Avery Harper (Seaman, OH) tallied 10 points and nine rebounds.
The RedStorm, who were without the services of their leading scorer for the season – sophomore forward Hailey Jordan (Columbus, OH) – are scheduled to return to action on Saturday against Great Lakes Christian College (Mich.).
Tipoff is set for 3 p.m.
Asbury will face Great Lakes Christian in Friday’s lone game in the women’s division of the Classic. Tip time is slated for 6 p.m.
Friday’s schedule also includes a pair of men’s games – Ohio Christian University vs. Campbellsville University-Harrodsburg at 4 p.m. and the University of Rio Grande hosting Great Lakes Christian in the 8 p.m. finale.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.