Updated Fri, Jan 10, 2014 2:02 pm
Rio Grande (10-5) returns home to the Newt Oliver Arena for the first time in 2014 on Saturday to host Shawnee State (7-8).
Shawnee State started its season on the right foot, wining six of its first nine games. Since starting the season 6-3, the Bears have gone 1-5, and are currently riding a two-game losing skid.
The Bears traveled to Kentucky last weekend for a pair of road games but came home to Portsmouth, Ohio, empty-handed. In its game against defending NAIA Division I national champion Georgetown College, a 98-53 loss, the Bears only trailed by six points at halftime but had no answer for anything Georgetown did offensively in the second half as the Tigers outscored Shawnee State by a 52-13 margin in the final 17 minutes. Two days later the Bears trailed by six at halftime once again. Despite a late 10-1 run to cut the deficit to one point, Shawnee State went cold in the final minutes of the game resulting in a 67-73 loss.
Senior guard Trevor Banks and forward Mark Bryant have proven to be the main weapons on the offensive side of the floor for Shawnee State. Banks averages 15 points per game and leads the team with 26 steals. Bryant, a 6-foot-6 forward, leads the Bears in rebounds by snagging eight boards per contest. Andrew Devlin, a 6-foot-5 center, leads the Bears in blocks, swatting 21 shots this season.
Rio Grande and Shawnee State have already faced multiple similar opponents so far this season. Both teams fell to Cumberland but beat non-conference opponents Indiana-Kokomo and Cincinnati-Clermont, in addition to Mid-South Conference rival Lindsey Wilson.
Rio started the 2013-14 season off strong with a three-game winning streak over non-conference opponents. After dropping two close games, the RedStorm once again glued together another three-game winning streak that featured a signature win over MSC opponent Lindsey Wilson. After shaky and inconsistent play in December, Rio Grande is once again riding a three-game winning streak.
Unlike Shawnee State, Rio Grande proved that they could compete with the best teams in the MSC by beating Cumberlands 66-65, and Georgetown College 79-72 last weekend in Kentucky. The victories improved Rio Grande’s conference record to 3-1 and gave Rio its first perfect MSC road trip since joining the conference five seasons ago.
Rio Grande’s bench runs deep, but three RedStorm players stood out from the crowd in last week’s winning streak.
Junior forward Josh Reagan shined bright and was named the MSC Men’s Basketball Player of the Week on Monday. Reagan averaged 18 points and five rebounds per game last week while leading the RedStorm to three victories. Rio also leaned on the leadership and clutch factor of Jermaine Warmack. The senior guard knocked down crucial free throws at the end of the game to lift the RedStorm over Cincinnati-Clermont and the Cumberlands. Despite only scoring one basket in the win over the Cumberlands, sophomore forward Phillip Hertz came alive in the win over Georgetown College by coming off the bench to score 22 points.
Since joining the league in 2009, Rio Grande is 3-6 all-time against Shawnee State. Over the past two seasons, Rio Grande has defeated their conference foes three of the last five times, including a game for the ages that concluded the 2012-13 season. The RedStorm used a 22-0 run to open the second half and help erase a 25-point halftime deficit to fuel an improbable 81-78, win over the Bears. Rio has only defeated its opponents by an average of 3.3 points in the last three games. The RedStorm will need to play strong from the tipoff to the final buzzer in order to improve their winning streak to four for the first time all season. Rio will have to play lockdown defense if it wants to contain Banks and the Bears who are hungry for a win.
Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. in the Newt Oliver Arena.