Rio Grande Sports Information
RIO GRANDE, Ohio - Stanley Christian and Abe Eze got the University of Rio Grande off to a great start, while Will Hill put the RedStorm on his back in the second half.
The end result was a victory which gave head coach Ken French's squad the post-season berth it so strongly desired.
Hill scored 16 of his team-high 26 points in the second half, while Eze netted a career-high 19 points and grabbed a season- and game-high nine rebounds in Rio's 84-71 triumph over Point Park University, Friday night, in River States Conference men's basketball action at the Newt Oliver Arena.
The RedStorm snapped a three-game losing streak, improving to 12-17 overall and 7-9 in league play.
The win also gave Rio Grande the fourth - and final - spot out of the RSC's East Division for next week's conference tournament. The RedStorm will face West Division champion Indiana University Southeast on Wednesday night at a time to be determined.
Point Park slipped to 8-19 overall and 5-11 in the RSC with a fourth straight loss. The setback also eliminated the Pioneers from post-season contention.
Rio Grande bolted to a 26-8 lead in the game's opening 7-1/2 minutes, fueled in large part by the play of Eze.
The sophomore from Lagos, Nigeria spelled senior teammate Josh Thompson (Bronx, NY), who got into early foul trouble, and scored half of the RedStorm's points during the game-opening run. His previous season-high had been 12 points.
Eze tacked on six more points in the second half to erase his previous career-best mark of 16 points.
Christian, a redshirt freshman from Norfolk, Va., also had 13 points in the opening stanza, but the Pioneers rebounded from the early onslaught and sliced the deficit down to seven, 44-37, by halftime.
Point Park completed the comeback in the second half and tied the game on three occasions - at 44-44, 49-49 and 51-51 - but that's when Hill took center stage for Rio.
The Worthington, Ohio junior responded with five consecutive points after the last of the three deadlocks and the RedStorm led the rest of the way. He scored 16 of his 26 points in the second half and finished with five three-pointers.
Point Park, which defeated Rio by 25 points in the first meeting between the two teams back in early December, was still within 69-67 after a dunk by Lassana Konate with 4:39 remaining, but Rio put the win on ice with a 15-4 run to close things out.
Senior Corey Cruse (Fort Mitchell, KY) added 10 points and junior Devon Price had a game-best six assists for Rio, which shot 51.7 percent (31-for-60) for the game and outrebounded its guest, 42-27.
Point Park, which shot a respectable 45.9 percent (28-for-61) overall while going just 4-for-21 (19.0%) from three-point range, was led by Gavin Rajahpillay with a game-high 29 points. Asim Pleas netted 10 points in a losing cause. Both also had three assists.
Rio Grande returns to action on Saturday afternoon when it hosts Carlow University for Senior Day. Thompson, Cruse and Demarco Washington (Ripley, OH) and senior staff assistant Bryan Stevens will be honored before the contest.
Tipoff is set for 4 p.m.