Updated Thu, Nov 7, 2013 10:51 am
Rio Grande earned its 12th consecutive opening game win Tuesday night for a strong start to the 2013-14 season. This was an immensely successful offensive night for the Red Storm that resulted in a 113-98 victory over Wilberforce, which happened to be Rio’s 700th all-time win.
Head coach David Smalley accredited the increase in points to the large amount of fouls, at 52 whistles on the night. Nine out of the 14 Rio players had two fouls. This is something that is likely to be seen more often due to a new officiating philosophy, which helps protect the offense.
“It turned into a free throw shooting contest,” Smalley said, “which forced the defense to play scared.”
Fortunately for Rio, it shot well on offense and dominated in free throws, scoring 24 out of 26 attempts from the line.
Rio Grande was able to keep the lead throughout the entire game. Once intermission approached, the RedStorm led by 13 points with a score of 54-41 at the end of the first half.
In the second half there were multiple occasions when Wilberforce closed up the gap, but Rio was able to pull together a 20-point lead, making the score 72-52.
Brianna Thomas had a phenomenal debut with 24 points, seven assists, and going 7-for-11 in field goals.
“Thomas was able to prove herself and show that she’s the real deal,” Smalley said. “She’s really going to make an impact on this team.”
Another key player on the night was Sarah Bonar who, as well as being successful on 13 of 19 field goal attempts and leading the team in rebounds, earned a career best after scoring 32 points.
Sophomore Julia Heaberland had a strong showing after scoring 10 points in nearly 10 minutes.
“Looking back I should have played [Heaberland] more,” Smalley said, “But she was really able to show her talent.”
After just coming off of a broken hand, Smalley was happy with Kate Hammond’s performance. Up until the game she had only practiced with the team for about a week and a half, but was still able to contribute to the win with 14 points in 29 minutes of play.
The coaches were able to rely on the rest of the bench throughout the night when fouls got in the way.
“When we were really in trouble at point guard, we were able to turn to the three and four players,” Smalley said. “We also have depth at the post and wing spots. It’s really beneficial to have many good players when you have to deal with a large amount of fouls.”
Rio will return to Newt Oliver Arena this Saturday to tip off against Miami-Middletown at 6 p.m.