RIO GRANDE, Ohio — So how does a team go about surviving 30 turnovers against a rival who hasn’t lost a regular season game to a fellow River States Conference member in its last 29 such outings?
A season-best shooting percentage as a team and a career-high scoring performance from a senior who’s made her bones this season as one of the nation’s top assist leaders proved to be the perfect recipe for the University of Rio Grande.
Chyna Chambers poured in a game-high and career-best 29 points and the RedStorm shot 61.8 percent from the floor in a 93-79 triumph over West Virginia University-Tech, Tuesday night, in women’s basketball action at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Rio Grande improved to 13-7 with the victory. Head coach David Smalley’s club has now won each of its last six contests, 10 of its last 11 outings and 12 of its past 14 games since a 1-5 start.
WVU-Tech slipped to 5-7 with the loss.
The Golden Bears suffered their first regular season setback to a River States Conference team since a 61-59 loss at Point Park University on Dec. 8, 2018 — a stretch of 29 straight games.
Oddly enough, the streak remains intact after the RSC’s decision to scrap designated conference games this season due to COVID-related restrictions and cancellations.
Rio Grande led Tuesday night’s get-together from start to finish, but had trouble pulling away thanks to a season-high 30 turnovers — the most in a game by a RedStorm team since committing 36 miscues in an 89-88 loss at Salem (WV) International University on Dec. 11, 2015.
The RedStorm managed to maintain their wire-to-wire advantage, though, by connecting on 34 of their 55 overall shots.
Chambers led the sizzling shooting touch, going 10-for-14 from the floor overall, 3-of-5 from three-point range and a perfect 6-for-6 at the free throw line. The Columbus, Ohio native, who entered the game leading the country in total assists with 124 and ranking fourth nationally at 6.5 assists per game, augmented her scoring total with a game-high five assists and a team-best five steals in the winning effort.
For a brief moment, it appeared as if Rio would need every bit of Chambers’ offensive prowess.
After trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half and by 10 points at the intermission, WVU-Tech pulled as close as 63-61 following a conventional three-point play by Brittney Justice with 3:50 remaining in the third quarter.
The deficit stood at just three, 68-65, after a steal and a layup by Justice with 2:27 left in the period, but the RedStorm snuffed out the Golden Bears’ hopes of a completed comeback by responding with a 15-5 run over the next eight minutes to open up a 13-point advantage, 83-70, after a pair of free throws by Chambers — who had 19 of her points in the second half — with 5:31 remaining in the game.
WVU-Tech got no closer than 11 points the rest of the way and Rio enjoyed its largest cushion of 16 points, 91-75, after a bucket by freshman Caitlyn Brisker (Oak Hill, OH) with just over a minute to play.
Sophomore Lexi Woods (Waverly, OH) added 23 points and a game-high six rebounds for the RedStorm in the win, while Brisker tossed in 13 points and sophomore Regan Willingham (Ashville, OH) netted 11 points.
WVU-Tech shot just over 50 percent from the floor overall (31-for-61), but committed 26 turnovers of its own which led directly to 33 Rio Grande points.
Justice had a team-high 22 points and a game-best six steals for the Golden Bears, while her twin sister, Whittney, had 13 points. Both tied for team honors with four rebounds.
ShanEttine Butler and Brianna Ball added 13 and 10 points, respectively, in a losing cause for Tech, which had won each of its previous four meetings with Rio Grande. Kathylee Pinnock-Branford had a team-best three assists.
Rio Grande is scheduled to return to action on Saturday afternoon when Carlow University visits for a 1 p.m. tipoff.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.