Updated Wed, Jan 29, 2014 5:29 pm
For the second time this season, the No. 14 Rio Grande RedStorm (14-6, 7-2) are set to battle the No. 18 Georgetown College Tigers (15-5, 6-3). This matchup, however, has much more on the line than last time when the RedStorm traveled to Georgetown on Jan. 4 and upset the then No. 2 Tigers, 79-72.
In their first matchup, the RedStorm were unranked while the Tigers placed second in the nation. Less than a month later, Rio Grande is ranked four spots in front of the Tigers in the Top 25 and is also one spot ahead in the conference.
This time around, these nationally ranked Mid-South Conference foes square off at Newt Oliver Arena to determine second place in the league standings. The RedStorm missed their opportunity to seize sole possession of first place in the MSC after a 96-78 blowout loss to the Pikeville Bears last Thursday.
The RedStorm were able to bounce back two days later against the Bluefield Rams with an 88-85 road victory. Rio was led by a monstrous game from its junior forward Josh Reagan who dropped 46 points on the Rams.
Reagan scored 21 of the team’s last 25 points to elevate the RedStorm over Bluefield. The 46 points from Reagan is the most scored by a player in the MSC this season and is also the second most in all of Division I of the NAIA.
The win over Bluefield boosted the RedStorm six spots to No. 14 in the nation while Georgetown fell seven spots to No. 18 after its 63-62 upset loss to Cumberland on the road last Tuesday.
With the home matchup against the Tigers, Rio Grande has the chance to not only beat its fourth ranked opponent this year but also prove why it deserves the No. 14 ranking it received this Tuesday.
Rio Grande has already shown why it deserves a top 25 spot, including the fact that it has its best record in nearly six years and a 6-1 record in the month of January. This impressive month is only three years removed from the 2010-11 season in which the RedStorm lost every single game, 17 total, from Jan. 6 to Feb. 28.
This sudden and unpredicted turnaround for head coach Ken French’s squad comes in Rio’s last year as a member of the MSC. The RedStorm are looking to leave their mark on the conference before moving over to the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
In order to accomplish this goal, Rio’s next step will be defeating Georgetown for the second time this year to remain one spot away from Pikeville.
This is much easier said than done because the Tigers rank in the top 10 in 10 different categories including first in blocks per game (5.5), total rebounds per game (47.2), and total blocks (110) this season. These stats, however, do not necessarily mean a win for the Tigers because in their last matchup with the RedStorm they were outrebounded 42-34. Georgetown also ranks third in the nation with 95.4 points per game but Rio Grande held it to just 72 points, which was a season-low for the Tigers at that point in the season.
For the first time this season, the RedStorm are not viewed as the underdog going into this game against a ranked opponent and Georgetown looks to knock off this red-hot Rio Grande squad on the road with redemption on its mind.