Rio Grande Sports Information
KOKOMO, Ind. - Just one season ago, the University of Rio Grande men's basketball team watched a number of second half leads fade away and end up as gut-wrenching losses.
But on Thursday night, it was the RedStorm who found themselves on the winning end of a stunning comeback.
Rio Grande erased a 19-point deficit with 11:35 left to play and closed the game on a 24-3 run to upend Indiana University-Kokomo, 72-63, in River States Conference action at Cougar Gymnasium.
The RedStorm won their third straight road outing and their fourth consecutive game altogether, improving to 10-13 overall and 6-5 in league play.
IU-Kokomo lost for the sixth straight time, slipping to 9-14 overall and 4-7 in the RSC.
The victory was Rio's largest come-from-behind triumph since erasing a 25-point halftime deficit to defeat rival Shawnee State University, 81-78, on Feb. 25, 2013.
Kokomo turned a six-point deficit midway through the opening half into an eight-point halftime lead, before twice extending its advantage to as many as 19 points - the last of which was 53-34 following an Antoin Clifton jumper with 11:35 remaining in the contest.
Rio Grande slowly began chipping away at the lead, but the Cougars still held a double-digit cushion, 60-49, after a bucket by Durante Lee with 5:57 left.
That's when the comeback effort went full throttle.
The RedStorm scored 14 of the next 16 points and took the lead for good, 63-62, on a pair of free throws by redshirt freshman Stanley Christian (Norfolk, VA) with 1:30 remaining.
IU-Kokomo's only other point came when Devon Burton hit one of two free throws with 33 seconds left, but by that time Rio had built an eight-point edge.
Senior Corey Cruse (Fort Mitchell, KY) hit two more free throws with 26.7 seconds left to set the final score.
Junior Will Hill (Worthington, OH) scored 13 of his game-high 24 points after halftime, while senior teammate Josh Thompson (Bronx, NY) had 14 of his career-high 19 points after the break. It was the second time in the team's last three outings that Thompson established a new career-high mark.
Cruse finished with 10 points and equaled a season-high with a game-best 10 rebounds for Rio, which hit 13 of its final 20 field goal attempts after connecting on just 10 of their first 43 tries.
Trent Elliott had 23 points and eight rebounds to lead IU-Kokomo, which remained winless in five all-time meetings with the RedStorm, while Eric Miller also pulled down eight rebounds.
Devon Burton added six assists and five steals in a losing cause for the Cougars, who shot a better percentage from the floor (42.3%-36.5%) and outrebounded their guests (40-38), but were victimized by 26 turnovers.
Rio Grande returns to action on Saturday afternoon at Cincinnati Christian University. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m.