CIRCLEVILLE, OH - Ohio Christian took on the University of Rio Grande on Tuesday night and came up short against their NAIA opponents in the closing moments, falling 70-63 to the Red Storm.
The Trailblazers shook off any rust from Thanksgiving break early on tuesday as they jumped out to an early 30-20 lead on Rio Grande to start the game. Rio answered back by putting together a 5-0 run to get within five points at 30-25 with 30 seconds remaining in the half. The Trailblazers were able to score the final basket to go into the intermission with a 32-25 lead and a seven point advantage.
The second half would be back and forth as the visiting Red Storm battled back. After the Trailblazers scored to take a 35-27 lead, Rio reeled off a 14-4 run over the next 4 minutes to steal the momentum and erase the Ohio Christian lead.
The Trailblazers regained their composure and answered back to regain the lead at 50-49 with less than seven minutes remaining. Rio Grande then responded with another 14-4 run to take an eight point lead with less than four minutes remaining, 63-54.
After a timeout, Ohio Christian put together one final run in the closing minutes. After a foul and the basket by Evan Mills, the Trailblazers used a full court press to steal the ball and score on a Wesley Russell layup with 22 seconds remaining. The Russell layup brought the Blazers to within two points of Rio, capping a 9-2 run by OCU.
Trailing 63-65 in the closing seconds, Ohio Christian was forced to foul and put Rio at the line. The visiting Red Storm knocked in 5 of 6 from the charity stripe down the stretch. A pair of OCU three point baskets were off the mark as Rio Grande came away with a hard fought 70-63 victory.
OCU shot 25 of 76 on night for only 32.9% compared to 44.3% for Rio Grande. OCU won the battle of the boards 45-39. The Rio Grande bench outscored the OCU bench, 34-25.
OCU was led by Wesley Russell with 12 points, 14 rebounds, and 9 assists. Nic Baker added 10 points for Ohio Christian while Evan Mills, Danny Schrock, and Ernie McCoy each tossed in 9 points. Joe Collier tallied 8 points in the paint.
The Trailblazers are back in action this weekend as they travel to Wilmore, Kentucky to compete in the Asbury University Tournament on Friday and Saturday. The Blazers will take on Asbury University on Friday and Union College on Saturday.