Updated Sun, Nov 10, 2013 7:26 pm
The stage was set for the Rio Grande men’s basketball team on Friday night as it played host to the featured night game of the Saunders Insurance Tipoff Classic. Newt Oliver Arena was packed with eager RedStorm fans waiting for the 2013-14 season to commence. As clear skies faded over the city of Rio Grande, a powerful RedStorm rolled in.
The RedStorm heated up early in the game as they rushed to a 23-14 lead inside the opening five minutes and outscored Miami University-Hamilton 17-0 over the final 2:48 to play en route to a 121-72 victory over the Harriers. Miami-Hamilton (0-2) went on a 16-4 run to cut a 20-point deficit down to eight, 32-24, after a Cameron Cochrum three-pointer with 6:55 remaining in the first half but Rio regained its spark when it reeled off 12 of their next 15 points to push the lead back to 17. The rout was on.
Friday night’s offensive explosion provided the program’s biggest offensive night in 14 years. The 121 points marked an all-time high for the Ken French era and was the program’s highest point total since a 121-35 win over Ohio University-Lancaster on Nov. 19, 1999.
The RedStorm were lights out all night as they shot 59.3 percent for the game (48-81), including an astonishing 75 percent in the second half (30-40) where they scored 70 points. The RedStorm simply couldn’t miss. Six Rio players finished in double figures, with half of those scoring 20 points or more.
Freshman forward Bilal Young topped the scoring charts with 24 points, connecting on 10 of 13 field goal attempts. Young scored all but three of his points in the second half in addition to his nine rebounds. Sophomore forward Phillip Hertz followed Young with 21 points and came alive in the second half, scoring 14 of his 21 points after the break.
Reigning Mid-South Conference Freshman of the Year, sophomore guard D.D Joiner, netted 20 points and eight rebounds on the night. He scored 17 points in the first half – 12 of which came in the game opening run.
Junior guard Travis Elliott contributed to the win with 16 points, five rebounds, and two assists. Senior guard Jermaine Warmack added 12 points, three steals, and six assists to the winning effort while junior guard Evan Legg netted 10 points and added three assists.
The Harriers were lead by Jamil Huffman who had 19 points and nine rebounds, while Alex Jones and Shane Roberts finished with 10 points each.
Phillip Hertz’s game-high 27 points helped Rio Grande rally from a pair of early 10-point deficits to lift the RedStorm to an 83-73 win over Indiana University-Kokomo, Saturday afternoon, in the Saunders Insurance Tipoff Classic.
Prior to the game, head coach Ken French stressed to his RedStorm team that Saturday’s game was going to be a different style of play than the game the night before. The RedStorm struggled to execute offensively early in the contest as they trailed 13-3 and 15-5 inside the game’s first eight minutes.
“The ball pressure was really good but I think it was more our inability early on to be patient and execute offense,” French said. “We turned it over early. I also thought we took some quick, bad shots, which frustrated us a little bit.”
The RedStorm chipped back and hit the locker room holding onto a tight 35-32 lead and were able to make essential adjustments after the break.
“We settled down, started working and attacked the rim better. We started playing at a better tempo, and started attacking the baskets. We started scoring and that gave us energy,” French said.
Sophomore forward Phillip Hertz shined. He connected on nine of his 12 field goal attempts and eight of his 10 free throw tries. Hertz scored 13 points in the opening half and 14 points after halftime. His dynamic performance on Saturday fed off of his 21-point outing the night before.
“[Hertz] hit a couple shots early,” French said. “He is versatile. We can use him inside or outside because he can shoot. Phillip can score and he can score in bunches.”
The standout players from Friday night’s game struggled to get anything going on Saturday afternoon. Sophomore guard D.D Joiner hit only one of his nine field goal tries and finished with only two points after a 20-point, eight-rebound performance on Friday night. The leading scorer in the win over Miami-Hamilton, Bilal Young, also struggled Saturday, only netting three points for the RedStorm.
Freshman forward Jalen Harris and senior guard Jermaine Warmack added 12 points each while junior center Sterling Smoak had 10 points.
The Cougars (0-4) never led again despite closing the gap to within one point in the second half. Jerome Campbell netted 12 points while Jared Lawrence and Spencer Krhin each had 11 points.
Rio Grande (2-0) returns to action on Tuesday night as it travels to Huntington, W.Va., to face NCAA Divison I Marshall University in an exhibition contest.