WILMORE, Ky. — The University of Rio Grande rallied to twice slice a double-digit second half deficit down to just four points, but host Asbury University closed the game on an 8-1 run to pull away for a 76-65 win over the RedStorm, Saturday afternoon, in non-conference men’s basketball action at the Luce Activities Center.
Rio Grande, which played without the services of sophomore forward Shiloah Blevins (South Webster, OH) — the team’s second-leading scorer and top rebounder — slipped to 5-6 with the loss.
Blevins missed the game while recovering from dental surgery over the holiday break.
The Eagles, like Rio Grande a member of the River States Conference, collected their seventh win in nine outings overall.
Rio Grande cut an eight-point first half deficit to 40-38 by halftime, but Asbury managed to rebuild an 11-point advantage, 58-47, following a three-point goal by Siah Holifield with just over 12 minutes left to play.
The RedStorm roared back again, though, closing the gap to 66-62 when freshman Andrew Shull (Milton, WV) hit one of two free throws with 4:51 remaining in the contest. However, a chance to eliminate the shortfall altogether — and perhaps take a lead — in the minutes that followed went unfulfilled.
The Eagles managed just two points over the next 4:05, but Rio went 0-for-5 from the floor — without an offensive rebound — and committed two turnovers over its next seven possessions.
Shull finally snapped the scoring drought by connecting on a jumper with 46.0 seconds left to make it 68-64, but the RedStorm managed just one point the rest of the way, going 0-for-2 from the floor, 1-for-3 at the free throw line and committing a turnover over its final four possessions.
Asbury, on the other hand, went 7-for-8 at the free throw line in the final 46 seconds to nail down the win.
Holifield led a group of five double-figure scorers for the Eagles with 16 points, while Eric Powell tossed in 15 points and Jamiel Goliday netted 12 points. Leander Ridgeway and John Shoulders finished with 11 points each.
Ridgeway added seven rebounds and Powell had four assists for the Eagles, who shot 58 percent from the field in the second half (14-for-24) and 56.5% from three-point range for the game (13-for-23).
The hot shooting touch helped AU survive a 31-30 rebounding deficit and 22 turnovers.
Rio Grande, which shot just under 54 percent from the floor in the first half (14-for-26), hit only 10 of its 37 field goal attempts after intermission (27.0%). The second half slump also included a 3-for-19 showing from beyond the three-point arc.
The RedStorm also went just 8-for-14 at the free throw line for the game.
Shull finished with a career-high 27 points in a losing cause, while sophomore Miki Tadic (Hilversum, The Netherlands) had 13 points to go along with a team-best seven rebounds and three steals.
Rio Grande is scheduled to return to action next Thursday in its RSC opener at West Virginia University-Tech.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center in Beckley, W.Va.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.