Updated Wed, Jan 22, 2014 3:49 pm
After a hard fought loss to nationally ranked Campbellsville, the Rio Grande (14-5 overall, 3-4 MSC) women’s basketball team returns to Mid-South Conference action Thursday night when it travels to the University of Pikeville (7-11 overall, 2-5 MSC) to take on the Bears.
Rio Grande hung with No. 8 Campbellsville throughout the first half, and entered the locker room trailing just 3 after a 8-2 run. But the Campbellsville Tigers tightened up its defense out of the locker room and built a comfortable lead that they would not relinquish for the rest of the game, closing out the RedStorm 80-64.
The Tigers successfully slowed down Rio Grande’s prolific offense through the use of a high-pressure 2-3 zone and intense physicality. Campbellsville limited the RedStorm to just 35 percent shooting from the field and 17 percent from beyond the arc. The 64 points scored by Rio Grande was a season low. The loss also puts the RedStorm at 0-4 against ranked opponents this season.
Brianna Thomas led Rio yet again in the box score. The junior guard scored a team-high 22 points to go with six rebounds, six assists and five steals. Sophomore Sarah Bonar added 13 points and had a team-high nine rebounds.
In order for the RedStorm to return to its winning ways against Pikeville, Rio will need to have more of an inside presence than it did against Campbellsville. RedStorm head coach David Smalley is especially concerned about his team’s defense in the paint.
“We did not defend the post very well one on one,” Smalley said. “If we don’t do a better job of containing Pikeville’s inside players they are going to give us a lot of problems. They have strong inside play and some perimeter players who can shoot the three pretty well.”
Pikeville’s inside play has been enhanced by junior forward Khalilah Quigley, who became eligible this semester and has provided a boost for the Tigers in the two games she has played in. Quigley scored 11 points in her first contest and added 17 in her second game. Pikeville is lead in scoring by senior guard Callisha Johnson. She is averaging 19.3 points per game and has shot 41.9 percent from the floor. Freshman center Cheyenne Madden is the only other Tiger to average double digit scoring numbers. Madden averages 11.1 points per game.
Rio Grande will look to get back on track offensively against Pikeville. The 64 points the RedStorm put up against Campbellsville is more than 25 points less than its NAIA Division I second-ranked season average (89.421). Keeping the turnovers down will be key to boosting offensive production. The RedStorm coughed it up 22 times against Campbellsville, and cannot afford to make those mistakes in MSC play.
With the conference standings so tight, Smalley knows how important getting back in the win column is for his team.
“Every game in this league is so crucial,” he said. “Especially on the road, it’s not easy to win on the road, but we’re ready.”
Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. at the East Kentucky Expo Center.