RIO GRANDE, Ohio — The game may have been basketball and not chess, but Indiana University East’s win over the University of Rio Grande had everything to do with a bishop that the RedStorm didn’t possess.
Bishop Smith scored 21 of his game-high 25 points in the second half to help the Red Wolves hang on for an 86-81 victory, Saturday afternoon, in River States Conference men’s basketball action at the Newt Oliver Arena.
IU East, which was among the schools receiving votes in the latest NAIA Division II coaches’ poll, improved to 8-8 overall and 3-0 in RSC play with the win.
Rio Grande slipped to 8-10 overall and 1-3 against league foes as a result of the loss.
Smith went 6-for-9 from the field after halftime, including 4-for-4 from three-point range to keep the RedStorm at bay.
The Red Wolves led by as many as 12 points on two different occasions in the second half, including 62-50 after a bucket by Tanner McFall with 10:40 left to play, but Rio Grande refused to fold its tent and three times sliced the deficit to five – the last of which came at 75-70 after freshman Dwaine Simmons (Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos) hit one of two free throw attempts with 3:23 remaining.
Smith, however, connected on back-to-back three-pointers over each of IU East’s next two possessions to push the lead back to 11 points.
The RedStorm got no closer than the game’s final margin after senior Hadith Tiggs (Mayfield Heights, OH) canned a three-pointer of his own as time expired.
Rio Grande, which was playing its second game since losing their second-leading scorer, junior Kyle Lamotte (Mason, OH), for 4-6 weeks due to injury – found themselves down just two points, 36-34, iwith 1:36 left in the opening stanza, but surrendered the final two points of the first half and gave up buckets on each of IU East’s first three possessions in the second half for a 44-35 deficit.
The RedStorm closed the gap to two, 49-47, after a jumper by sophomore Gunner Short (Catlettsburg, KY) with 14:58 left to play, but Smith answered that bucket with consecutive jumpers of his own as well and Rio got no closer the rest of the way.
Garrett Silcott augmented Smith’s performance with 23 points of his own for the Red Wolves, 17 of which came in the opening half.
IU East also got 16 points from Donald Lee, while Keating Rombach finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots.
Short led five Rio Grande players in double figures with 22 points. He also had a game-high four steals.
Tiggs had 15 points and four assists in a losing cause for the RedStorm, while sophomore Joshua Anthony (Newnan, GA) had 11 points and the duo of Simmons and fellow frosh Shiloah Blevins (South Webster, OH) netted 10 points each.
Blevins also had a team-high six rebounds.
Rio Grande returns to action Thursday night at Brescia University.
Tipoff is set for 8:30 p.m.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.