Updated Fri, Jan 24, 2014 4:22 pm
After securing a spot in top 25 in the latest NAIA Division I Coaches Poll, the No. 20 Rio Grande RedStorm fell to the No. 4 Pikeville Bears 96-78 at the East Kentucky Expo Center Thursday, Jan. 23. The loss snaps Rio's six-game win streak, as Pikeville remains undefeated at home.
On Tuesday night, Mid-South Conference officials announced Rio Grande’s first national ranking since it was seeded No. 17 on Jan. 19, 2009. This ranking came back when Rio was still in Division II of the NAIA and a member of the America Mideast Conference.
In this battle for the top-spot in the MSC, the Bears upended the RedStorm and claimed sole possession of first place in the league standings. Pikeville led by as many as 31 points in the second half, showing why its 25 point average margin of victory ranks first in the NAIA.
The defeat also marks the RedStorm's first loss to a nationally ranked opponent this season and their first defeat in the month of January. After trailing by only 1 point with five minutes until halftime, the Bears went on a 14-5 run to take a double-digit lead, which they would not relinquish. Pikeville opened the second half with 7 straight points and controlled the rest of the game, forcing the RedStorm to turn the ball over 20 times.
Five players for Pikeville scored in double figures in the rout, as the Bears knocked down 48 points in the first half and 48 again in the second.
Senior guard Keala King led the scoring attack for the Bears with a game-high 22 points on 63.6 percent shooting from the field. The Bears also outrebounded Rio Grande 46-36 as junior forward Chris Cantino corralled a game-high 12 rebounds. Senior forward Bruce Reed also chipped in 10 points, five rebounds, and five blocks.
While the Bears shot 53.1 percent as a team, the RedStorm went only 22-of-60 from the field and finally came back down to earth after their impressive six-game winning streak dating back to Dec. 30 of last year.
Bilal Young and Ricky Tisdale led the RedStorm with 16 points apiece, while former MSC Player of the Week Josh Reagan fouled out of the game after playing only 22 minutes.
Before the game, Rio ranked second in free throw shooting with a 76.8 percent clip. Free throws, however, came back to bite the RedStorm as they missed an uncharacteristic 12 fouls shots on 40 attempts.
Rio Grande looks to pick up at least one victory on the road when it faces off against Bluefield College on Jan. 25.