WILBERFORCE – Wilberforce University built a 13-point second half lead, but was forced to hold on for dear life down the stretch in an eventual 69-64 triumph over the University of Rio Grande, Tuesday night, in non-conference men’s basketball action at the Gaston Lewis Gymnasium.
The Bulldogs (11-4), who were playing for the first time since a Dec. 10 win at Rio Grande and for the first time at home since Nov. 21, won for the third straight time en route to completing the season sweep of the RedStorm.
Rio suffered its second straight loss and dropped to 5-13 overall.
The RedStorm actually outshot Wilberforce from the field (50.0%-42.4%) and out rebounded the Bulldogs, 31-25, but were victimized by 20 turnovers which led to a 21-3 advantage in points off of the miscues for the hosts.
The game was a back-and-forth affair through the first 11 minutes, before Wilberforce grabbed control over the final nine minutes of the opening half and built a 43-34 advantage at the intermission.
The lead grew to 13 points, 52-39, following a three-pointer by Patrick Mitchell with 17:17 left in the contest, but the RedStorm refused to go away quietly.
Rio pulled to within 57-55 following a pair of free throws by senior DeVon Price (Pickerington) with 8:17 remaining and trailed just 61-57 after junior Will Hill (Worthington) canned a pair of free throws with 3:52 to play, but the Bulldogs turned turnovers on each of the RedStorm’s next two possessions into a 66-57 lead with 2:59 remaining.
Rio got no closer than the game’s final margin the rest of the way.
Hill was Rio Grande’s lone double-digit scorer, finishing with a game-high 23 points. He also had a game-best five assists.
Senior Josh Thompson (Bronx, NY) led Rio with seven rebounds.
Demond Parker led a quartet of double-figure scorers for Wilberforce with 13 points, while Mitchell finished with 11 points to go along with a game-best nine rebounds, a team-high three assists and a game-high three steals.
Darrion Riddle and Malik Breckenridge added 10 points each in the winning effort for the Bulldogs.
The RedStorm return to action on Saturday afternoon when West Virginia University-Tech visits the Newt Oliver Arena for a 4 p.m. tipoff.