RIO GRANDE, Ohio — The University of Pikeville bolted to a 24-point haltime lead and never looked back, cruising to a 111-91 win over the University of Rio Grande and spoiling Senior Day activities, Saturday afternoon at the Newt Oliver Arena.
The second-ranked Bears, who have already clinched the Mid-South Conference regular season championship, improved to 25-2 overall and 15-1 in the MSC.
Rio Grande, which was ranked 19th this week, suffered its fourth consecutive setback in slipping to 16-11 overall and 9-7 in league play.
The RedStorm trailed just 33-28 following a bucket by freshman forward Bilal Young (Cleveland, OH) with 8:12 left in the first half, but UPike reeled off 22 of the game’s next 25 points over the next 6-1/2 minutes to blow the game open.
The Bears extended their gaudy advantage at the intermission to as many as 34 points, 73-39, after a conventional three-point play by Bruce Reed with 16:37 remaining in the contest and Rio Grande got no closer than 19 points the rest of the way.
A physical - and oft-times adversarial- affair, the game included three technical fouls, two intentional fouls and the ejections of two its high-profile standouts - Pikeville’s Chris Cantino and Rio Grande’s Josh Regan.
Cantino was tossed with 8:45 remaining in the first half when he shoved Reagan in the back of the head after the two teams had been warned to control their emotions just moments earlier.
Ironically, the Bears began their game-changing run less than a minute after Cantino’s depature.
Reagan, who was assessed a technical foul a little over a minute before Cantino was ejected, got his own ticket for an early exit when the Cleveland, Ohio junior received a second technical foul as the teams were leaving the floor at halftime.
Pikeville shot 55.8 percent for the game (43-for-77), including a sizzling 60 percent (24-for-40) in the first half. The Bears also enjoyed a whopping 52-29 edge in rebounding.
Rio Grande connected on 11 three-point goals and shot nearly 55 percent from the floor in the second half (17-for-31), but the outcome had been decided by that point.
Josh Whitaker had game-high 26 points - 13 in each half - to go along with six assists for UPike, while Keala King added 21 points and Reed finished with 19.
Kenny Manigault (11 pts.) and Elisha Justice (10 pts.) also reached double figures for the Bears, while Justice also had a game-high seven assists and Michael Eneh added a game-high nine rebounds in a reserve role.
Sophomore guard D.D. Joiner (Columbus, OH) topped a trio of double-digit scorers for Rio with 21 points, while senior guard Ricky Tisdale (Bolivar, TN) netted a career-high 20 points and Young finished with 14 points.
Senior guard Jermaine Warmack (Orange, NJ), who along with Tisdale was honored in pre-game ceremonies, had a team-high five assists and three steals in a losing cause for the RedStorm and junior center Sterling Smoak (San Antonio, TX) pulled down a team-high four rebounds.
Rio Grande will close its regular season schedule with a two-game road swing that begins next Thursday against Lindsey Wilson College.
Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. EST at the Biggers Athletic Center in Columbia, Ky.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.