RIO GRANDE, Ohio — When the University of Rio Grande needed a defensive stop or a rebound, more often than not, it was unsuccessful.
When West Virginia University-Tech needed to be good at the free throw line, it was downright deadly.
The end result was another gut-wrenching – and potentially costly – setback for the RedStorm.
Tech’s Michael Scott canned a pair of free throws with 1.2 seconds remaining and Thomas Collins added two more shots from the charity stripe with four-tenths of a second left to give the Golden Bears a 91-86 win, Saturday afternoon, in River States Conference men’s basketball action at the Newt Oliver Arena.
WVU-Tech – which won for the third straight time and for the fifth time in six outings – improved to 16-9 overall and 9-4 in the RSC with the victory, while completing a season sweep of Rio Grande in the process.
The RedStorm slipped to 9-17 overall and 4-9 in league play while suffering a fifth straight loss. Three of those five losses in the streak have been by five points or less, while five other losses this season have also come by the same narrow margin.
Rio currently sits one-half game behind Carlow University for the fourth and final RSC Tournament bid out of the league’s East Division.
The RedStorm are also two games behind current East Division No. 3 seed Ohio Christian with four games left to play.
Head coach Ken French’s squad travels to division leader – and No. 2 ranked – Indiana University East on Tuesday night and closes the regular season at Carlow. In between, Ohio Christian and division cellar-dweller Point Park will visit the Newt Oliver Arena.
In Saturday’s loss to Tech – a game which included a whopping 16 ties and 14 lead changes – Rio finished with four more overall field goals than the Golden Bears (32-28) and three more three-pointers than their guests (11-8), but was outscored 27-11 at the free throw line.
In fact, Tech – which entered the game shooting 65.9 percent at the charity stripe – finished 27-for-30 at the line (90%) to compliment a whopping 41-24 rebounding edge.
Still, an 11-0 Rio Grande run – capped by a three-pointer by freshman Trey Kelley (Minford, OH) – gave the RedStorm a 60-53 advantage with 13:50 left in the game.
The Golden Bears countered with an 11-2 run of their own over the next 3-1/2 minutes to grab a 64-62 advantage following a bucket by Dominik King with 10:14 remaining.
Tech didn’t take the lead for good until a pair of free throws by Brandon Shingles made it 72-71 with 5:23 left to play.
Rio Grande fell behind by as many as six points twice in the final 2:11, but closed the gap to one again, 87-86, following a three-pointer by senior Will Hill (Worthington, OH) with 5.0 seconds remaining.
Scott’s free throws with 1.2 seconds left made it 89-86, but the RedStorm turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds play denying them the opportunity to tie the game and force overtime.
Collins’ free throws with .4 seconds left sealed the victory.
Shingles led a trio of double-digit scorers for WVU-Tech with a game-high 28 points, while Scott finished with 21 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Collins added 19 points in the winning effort for the Golden Bears.
Shingles, Scott and Collins combined to go 24-for-26 at the free throw line.
Hill had 26 points, four assists and two steals to lead Rio Grande, while senior Devon Price (Pickerington, OH) had a career-high 16 points to go along with four steals and two steals of his own.
Senior Kenny Council (Jacksonville, FL) had 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds in a losing cause, while Kelley finished with 12 points.
The RedStorm played without the services of sophomore forward Stanley Christian (Norfolk, VA) – the team’s second-leading scorer and top rebounder – who served a mandatory one-game suspension after receiving a pair of technical fouls in Tuesday night’s loss at rival Shawnee State.
Rio shot 49 percent overall (32-for-65), 40 percent from beyond the three-point arc (11-for-27) and 84.6 percent from the free throw line (11-for-13) in the loss.
Tuesday night’s game at IU East is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff at Ingle Court in Richmond, Indiana.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.