RIO GRANDE, Ohio — It looked a lot like one of those classic battles between Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed that were staged in the “Rocky” movie series.
Eleven ties and 17 lead changes sufficiently said everything you need to know about the University of Rio Grande’s get together with Wilberforce University on Tuesday night at the Newt Oliver Arena.
The RedStorm was the beneficiary on the last of those lead changes, though, as Miki Tadic canned a go-ahead three-pointer with 1:14 left to play and head coach Ryan Arrowood’s club held on in the final seconds for a 67-65 win over the Bulldogs in non-conference men’s basketball action.
Rio Grande improved to 6-5 overall and won for the 38th time in 47 all-time meetings with Wilberforce.
The Bulldogs, who had won each of the previous three meetings in the series, dropped to 4-13 with a sixth consecutive loss.
A back-and-forth first half affair ended in a 33-all tie at the intermission and the give and take continued over the final 20 minutes.
Rio never led by more than three points after halftime and Wilberforce’s largest lead was four points with just over 15 minutes to play.
The Bulldogs’ final advantage of the night came with 2:08 remaining when a Cali Davis layup made it 63-61, but Tadic — a sophomore from Hilversum, The Netherlands — drilled his go-ahead triple from the left wing to put Rio in front to stay.
Tadic added a steal and subsequent layup on the Dogs’ ensuing possession to make it 66-63 with 45 seconds left, but Wilberforce refused to fold its tent and pulled to within 66-65 on a Bobby McFadden jumper with 31 seconds remaining.
Rio had two chances to ice the victory, but freshman Caleb Wallis (Jackson, OH) hit just one of two free throw tries with 22.9 seconds left and Tadic missed two shots of his from the charity stripe with seven seconds to play that gave the visitors one last gasp.
McFadden rebounded Tadic’s second miss and drove to the left block looking for a game-tying bucket, but Rio freshman Exauce Manissa (Point Noire, The Congo) poked the ball away just enough that, by the time McFadden chased down the ball, the buzzer sounded before he could fire up a desperation three-point attempt.
Wilberforce shot 64 percent from the floor in the first half (14-for-22) and 50.9 percent for the game (27-for-53), but hurt itself all night long with 22 turnovers which led directly to 28 points for the RedStorm.
Rio Grande survived despite shooting just 33 percent overall (24-for-72) and 22.5 percent (9-for-40) from beyond the three-point arc.
The RedStorm were also out rebounded, 45-37.
Sophomore Shiloah Blevins (South Webster, OH) led Rio Grande with 20 points and Tadic finished with 18 points and five steals.
Sophomore Taylor Mack (Akron, OH) was equally as big, though, scoring eight points and finishing with a team-best 13 rebounds, seven steals and four assists.
McFadden led Wilberforce with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Cali Davis added 13 points off the bench before fouling out in the waning seconds.
Rio Grande is scheduled to return to action on Saturday afternoon at the University of Northwestern Ohio.
Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. at The Garage in Lima, Ohio.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.