Updated Fri, Jan 17, 2014 6:09 pm
After an exhilarating win last night over their third straight nationally ranked opponent, the Rio Grande RedStorm (12-5, 5-1) are catching fire as they square off Saturday afternoon against the Campbellsville Tigers (7-8, 2-5). The RedStorm hope to stay unbeaten in the month of January and are looking to extend their winning streak to six games.
For the first time ever, Rio Grande is tied for first place with Pikeville College in the Mid-South Conference. A big reason why the RedStorm enter this matchup tied for first is because of their continued success against nationally ranked opponents.
Last night, Rio defeated No. 14 St. Catharine 71-68 in a nail biting finish in which sophomore D.D. Joiner dropped a season-high 23 points, with 15 coming from beyond the arc. Once again, Jermaine Warmack iced the game in the final seconds with his deadly accurate free throw shooting. Warmack and the RedStorm remain second in Division I of the NAIA in free throw shooting percentage at 75.6 percent.
After Saturday’s contest with the Tigers, the RedStorm take on Pikeville to determine who will be the top dog in the MSC. Rio Grande, however, must be careful not to overlook Campbellsville, because this could be a trap game in which the Tigers catch the RedStorm off guard. Every game in the MSC is a “war” as head coach Ken French likes to call it and this one is no exception.
The most intriguing matchup in terms of this game will be between the talented forwards of each team. Campbellsville junior forward Eric Gaines leads the team with exactly 15 points a game and 7.1 rebounds while his counterpart Phillip Hertz also paces the RedStorm in scoring with just under 15 a game.
Make no mistake; Rio Grande will be strong in its third home game of January as it is currently 8-3 this season at Newt Oliver Arena. With the perfectly timed emergence of D.D. Joiner, the Tigers will have a very hard time taking down the RedStorm at home.
The RedStorm also have extra incentive in this game because with a win, they would undoubtedly earn a top-25 national ranking for the first time ever as a team in Division I of the NAIA. In a season in which the RedStorm have already broken many winning records under French, look for them to add a national ranking to their already impressive 2013-14 resume.