RIO GRANDE, Ohio — The University of Rio Grande bolted to a 21-point halftime lead and never looked back, cruising to a 77-51 victory over Bluefield (Va.) College, Thursday night, in Mid-South Conference men’s basketball action at the Newt Oliver Arena.
The RedStorm snapped a three-game losing streak in the process, improving to 7-12 overall and 3-7 in the MSC.
The win also allowed head coach Ken French’s team to escape the bottom spot in the league standings and vault into eighth place. The top eight teams in the 11-team league qualify for the conference tournament at the end of February.
Bluefield (7-9, 2-7 MSC), one of two newcomers to the league this season, suffered its fifth straight loss overall and its seventh straight MSC setback after winning each of its first two conference outings.
The Rams scored the game’s first basket of the night on a Pierre Walters layup just 18 seconds into the contest, but Rio Grande scored the next eight points en route to grabbing a lead it would never relinquish.
The RedStorm’s biggest lead of the half was the 21-point cushion, 38-17, that it took into the lockerroom at the intermission.
Bluefield shot just 19.2 percent from the field in the first half (5-for-26) and didn’t reach double figures until another jumper by Walters with 6:00 left before halftime. By that time, Rio Grande had built a 23-9 advantage.
The RedStorm led by no less than 19 points at any stage of the second half and enjoyed their biggest edge of the night - 29 points - when a layup by junior forward Bruce Komakech made it 60-31 with 7:31 left to play.
Rio Grande, which played without the services of its leading scorer, freshman D.D. Joiner, who was sidelined with a knee injury he suffered in last Saturday’s loss at St. Catharine, saw nine of the 11 players it suited up score at least two points.
Four of the nine reached double figures, led by freshman forward Austin McMaster, who had a game-high 14 points. Senior center Dominick Haynes and junior guard Jermaine Warmack added 11 points apiece, while Komakech netted 10 points on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting performance.
Haynes also grabbed a game-high eight rebounds, while sophomore guard Evan Legg handed out a game-high six assists and tied sophomore guard Travis Elliott for game honors with three steals.
Elliott was also honored in pre-game ceremonies as the recipient of the 4th Annual Corey Taylor Heart & Hustle Award, given to a team member who best represents the same qualities of Taylor, a junior varsity player in the Rio program who died tragically in an automobile accident on Christmas night in 2008.
Rio Grande shot 47.7 percent from the field for the game (31-for-65) and outrebounded the Rams, 44-31.
Bluefield finished just 15-for-52 from the field overall (28.8 percent) and committed 25 turnovers.
Kearsten Marion led the Rams with 11 points, while Byron carpenter netted 10 points in the loss.
Carpenter, who entered the game as the second-leading scorer in the MSC at 22.9 points per contest, scored all but two of his points at the free throw line, going just 1-for-8 from the floor.
Josh Nesbit added a team-high seven rebounds and a game-high three blocked shots for BC.
Rio Grande will take a brief hiatus from game action before returning to the floor next Thursday, when St. Catharine visits the Newt Oliver Arena for an 8 p.m. tipoff.