Updated Tue, Dec 17, 2013 5:18 pm
Ohio Christian (6-9) snapped its four-game losing streak on Tuesday afternoon with a 78-70 victory over Rio Grande (7-4). The Trailblazers left Newt Oliver Arena with a victory over the RedStorm for the first time in their seven-game history.
The RedStorm settled for outside shots for most of the first half and failed to find an answer to Ohio Christian leading scorer, Wesley Russell, who finished with 20 points.
“[Russell] did a good job,” Rio head coach Ken French said. “He runs the seam and plays with some toughness and he gives his other guys confidence.”
Ohio Christian jumped out to an early 16-11 lead with 12:45 remaining in the first half after a 3-pointer by Russell. Rio quickly answered and tied the game at 18 after a shot from behind the arc by Ricky Tisdale. Both teams traded leads for the remainder of the half but the Trailblazers left the court for halftime with a 39-32 lead over the RedStorm.
The Trailblazers came out of the locker room and quickly lit up the scoreboard. Ohio Christian opened the second half on an 8-2 scoring run to take a 47-34 lead with 17:09 remaining in the game. Rio turned ice cold in the second half and didn’t score its first basket until Bilal Young knocked down a shot at the 13:38 mark. Ohio Christian led Rio by 16 points, its largest lead of the game, after a Russell bucket with 14:25 remaining.
French took a crucial time out after the bucket to gather his team and form a new game plan. The RedStorm cut their deficit to 10 with 6:23 remaining in the game and trailed Ohio Christian 58-48.
“We drove the ball down low and were trying to attack the rim because we weren’t scoring, we weren’t sharing the ball, and we weren’t knocking down shots,” French said. “That’s how we came back late.”
The RedStorm cut their deficit down to six points with 2:25 remaining in the game, trailing 65-59, but failed to cut any closer.
Rio continued to fight and forced Ohio Christian to earn their points from the charity stripe late in the game but the Trailblazers ultimately pulled away with a 78-70 victory.
Ricky Tisdale and Phillip Hertz led the RedStorm in scoring with 15 points each, followed by D.D. Joiner who added 13 points.
Four Ohio Christian players scored in double digits on Tuesday afternoon. Russell’s 20 led the Trailblazers and he added 13 rebounds. Evan Mills added 15 points followed by Evan Bartlet who netted 13. Danny Schrock added 11 points in the winning effort.
“We have to give them credit. They played with better toughness and they took the ball to the hole,” French said. “They finished and we didn’t. Our mental toughness has got to be better and we have to do a better job of finishing on the inside. We got looks. We missed layups and we only had four assists in the game. We didn’t play team basketball.”
Despite Rio’s struggles on Tuesday afternoon, French remains confident that his team will rebound because is has been in this same situation before.
“We’ve got to adjust. We’ve got to develop. Some guys have to step up. It’s capable because we’ve done it before,” he said. “We’ve done it this year. It’s there but it was just tough today.”
Rio Grande will travel to Orlando, Fla., to face the NCAA Division I opponent Central Florida in the UCF Classic on Dec. 21. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m.