MARION, Ind. — There’s a reason that Indiana Wesleyan University is the top-ranked team in NAIA and there’s a reason the Wildcats’ standout guard, Kyle Mangas, was recognized as the nation’s top small college basketball player last season with the Bevo Francis Award.
Unfortunately, the University of Rio Grande got a first-hand account of both on Wednesday night.
Mangas scored 22 of his game-high 32 points in the first half as the Wildcats grabbed control over the final eight minutes of the opening stanza and went on to post a 97-75 victory over the RedStorm at Luckey Arena.
Indiana Wesleyan ran its record to 23-1 with the victory.
Rio Grande, which had a five-game winning streak snapped, slipped to 10-7 with the loss.
The RedStorm hung tough out of the gate, with the game featuring three ties and eight lead changes inside the first seven minutes.
But Mangas, who earlier this season surpassed the 3,000-point mark for his career, converted a conventional three-point play with 13:26 remaining in the half to give the Wildcats a 15-14 advantage.
It was a lead that the hosts maintained for the rest of the night.
IWU led by as many as 18 points three times in the half before settling on a 16-point cushion at the intermission, 49-33.
A 9-2 spurt to begin the second half pushed the lead to 23 points and Rio Grande got no closer than 19 points the rest of the way.
The Wildcats’ largest lead of the contest was 33 points after a three-pointer by Luke Stephens made it 96-63 with 2:50 left to play, while the RedStorm scored 12 of the game’s final 13 points to set the final score.
Indiana Wesleyan, which entered the game shooting 55 percent for the season and just over 99 points per outing, shot 65 percent overall (39-for-60) and 55 percent from beyond the three-point arc (11-for-20).
Mangas, who averages just under 30 points per game, went 13-for-16 from the field and 4-for-5 at the foul line. He also had a team-best seven rebounds and two steals to go along with four assists.
Dylan Anderson and Spencer Piercefield added 17 and 15 points, respectively, while Michael Thompson III had 10 points.
Noah Smith led IWU with seven assists and 7-foot-0 center Seth Maxwell had a game-high four blocked shots in the win.
Rio Grande shot a respectable 42.9 percent overall (27-for-63), including 10 three-point goals, and committed just six turnovers, but was out rebounded 38-21.
Sophomore Shiloah Blevins (South Webster, OH) led the RedStorm with 18 points and three steals, while sophomore Miki Tadic (Hilversum, The Netherlands) had 15 points.
Freshman Caleb Wallis (Jackson, OH) added 14 points and a team-high five rebounds, while senior Cam Schreiter (Mason, OH) contributed a season-high 14 points and freshman Andrew Shull (Milton, WV) handed out five assists.
Rio Grande returns to action on Saturday when it travels to Pittsburgh, Pa. for a meeting with Point Park University.
Tipoff is set for 3 p.m.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.