Updated Mon, Dec 30, 2013 8:55 am
After going eight days without a game, the Rio Grande RedStorm return to action at home against the Cincinnati Clermont Cougars (5-10). The RedStorm look to snap their three-game losing streak and hope to bounce back in this 7 p.m. contest after losing a pair of games in Orlando, Fla., in the Jackson Hewitt Holiday Classic.
In the Holiday Classic, Rio lost its exhibition game 86-58 to Central Florida shooting only 37 percent from the field and 11 percent from 3-point range. The RedStorm followed up a day later with a 92-81 loss to Southeastern University, which dropped them to 7-5 on the season.
In the loss to Southeastern, Phillip Hertz led the team with 18 points off the bench. Hertz also leads the team in scoring, averaging 15.6 points a game. Rio boasts a 5-3 record at Newt Oliver Arena as this game against the Cougars marks its ninth and last home game of 2013. The RedStorm have also been on an eight-game break during the Holidays prior to this matchup.
“We’ve looked a little rough. Our energy and conditioning has gone down a bit but that’s expected when you have five days off in a row,” head coach Ken French said. “We’ve looked good in our practices. We’re still shooting pretty sharp and the five days off with no practice is really the only impact this break has had on us.”
Before the break, the RedStorm also dropped three consecutive games with one at home and two on the road in the Jackson Hewitt Holiday Classic.
“We’re a young team,” French said. “As a team we’re still trying to develop who we are but I believe that it’s heading in the right direction.”
While the RedStorm jumps back into the season, Cincinnati Clermont only has five wins through 15 games. The Cougars are coming off an exhilarating and high-scoring 116-101 win over the Miami-Hamilton Harriers. The win over the Harries snapped the Cougars’ four-game losing streak they had prior to the game. Cincinnati Clermont is outscored 1,404-1,208 by opponents this season including nine games in which they have given up 90 or more points. In five of those nine games, the Cougars gave up over 100 points including its last three games on Dec. 17, 19, and 22.
“They’re an up-tempo team and sometimes that backfires on them. ” French said. “That up-tempo play hurts because at times it means they’re not committed to solid defense like they should be. With our three guards, I think their game style plays to our advantage.”
The RedStorm will need to take advantage of the Cougars’ weak defensive play and that starts with getting to the foul line. Rio Grande ranks second in Division I of the NAIA in free throw percentage, shooting 77.1 percent from the charity stripe. This free throw success is due in large part to Jermaine Warmack who is averaging 91.4 percent from the foul line, which ranks sixth in the NAIA. Warmack also leads the team in assists with 3.75 a game.
With a chance to snap its three-game losing streak at home, Rio Grande looks to have the same success that many other offenses have had against the Cougars. For Cincinnati-Clermont, a win against the RedStorm would give it its first back-to-back victories of the season.