RIO GRANDE, Ohio — D.D. Joiner poured in a career-high 27 points and the University of Rio Grande survived a second half comeback effort by Cumberland University to pull away for a 74-55 win over the Bulldogs, Thursday night, in the Mid-South Conference men’s basketball opener for both schools at the Newt Oliver Arena.
The RedStorm, who won their conference season opener for the first time since joining the MSC four years ago, improved to 3-2 with the victory.
Cumberland, which was making its debut as a full-time member of the league - in addition to playing Rio Grande for the first time in school history — saw its overall record even at 2-2 with the loss.
Rio Grande used a 9-0 first half run to open up an 11-point lead inside the game’s first nine minutes and extended the advantage to as many as 18 points before settling on a 37-21 edge at the intermission.
The RedStorm lead reached 19 points, 40-21, one minute into the second half, but the Bulldogs mounted a methodical comeback over the next 11 minutes and closed the gap to just eight, 53-45, following a three-pointer by Lester Gude with 8:18 left in the contest.
Rio responded, though, with a 7-0 run of its own over the next minute-and-a-half to build the advantage back to 15 points and led by no less than 13 points the rest of the way.
Head coach Ken French’s team enjoyed its biggest lead of the night, 74-53, after a bucket by Joiner with nine seconds left to play.
Joiner scored 16 of his points after halftime in helping the RedStorm slow the Bulldogs’ comeback attempt. He also finished with six rebounds and a pair of steals.
Rio Grande, which shots 45.5 percent (25-for-55) as a team in the win, also was the beneficiary of an 11-point, seven-rebound, seven-assist outing from junior guard Jermaine Warmack.
Brian Blackmon was the only double-figure scorer for Cumberland, finishing with 12 points.
The Bulldogs shot just 33.9 percent from the field overall (19-for-56), including 8-for-26 from three-point range, and were outrebounded 40-32. Creshaun Holt led CU with five rebounds.
Rio Grande closes out its season-opening six-game homestand on Saturday when the University of the Cumberlands visits for a 3 p.m. tipoff.
The Patriots, who were ranked 25th in the MSC preseason coaches poll, edged Shawnee State, 67-63, in their MSC opener on Thursday night.