RIO GRANDE, Ohio – With nearly 400 Rio Grande Elementary students looking on, the University of Rio Grande men’s basketball game gave their young fans quite an offensive show.
Abe Eze had a career-high 16 points and 13 rebounds to lead six University of Rio Grande players in double figures and fuel the RedStorm’s 109-51 rout of Ohio University-Zanesville, Monday afternoon, in the Champions of Character Classic at the Newt Oliver Arena.
The enthusiastic group of youngsters, who were treated to a bag lunch before receiving glow-sticks to wave while the lights were dimmed as the team took the floor for pregame warmups, also participated in the pre-game introductions before watching the RedStorm collect a fourth straight win and push their season mark to 9-4.
The Tracers dropped to 0-6 with the loss.
“It was a great day, not only for the kids, but for our players,” said Rio Grande head coach Ken French. “A lot of these kids know our players from our visits to their classrooms and a lot of them are campers here during the summer. They look up to our guys and our guys enjoy the experience.”
Eze, a freshman from Lagos, Nigeria, scored 10 of his points in the second half and nine of his rebounds were on the offensive glass.
Rio Grande, which played without its leading scorer, senior guard D.D. Joiner (Columbus, OH), who sat out as a result of a sore back, also got 13 points in the winning effort from junior Matt Rhodes (Westerville, OH), while the trio of senior Travis Elliott (Ironton, OH), sophomore Will Hill (Worthington, OH) and freshman Sky Oliver (Portsmouth, OH) all had 11 points each. Oliver’s total also represented a career-high.
Like Eze, senior Dwayne Bazemore (Columbus, OH) finished with a double-double in the victory, tallying 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Rio Grande trailed 11-10 after a jumper by OU-Zanesville’s Trevon Thomas with 16:21 left in the first half, but proceeded to reel off the game’s next eight points and never trailed again.
The RedStorm enjoyed a 21-point halftime cushion, 50-29, and the 58-point margin of victory provided their largest lead of the day.
Rio hit a season-high 16 three-pointers and also tallied 32 assists as a team, with Black totaling eight and Oliver handing out a career-high seven in the victory.
OU-Zanesville, which shot just 25.8 percent in the second half (8-for-31) and was outrebounded in the game, 67-24, was led by Josh Turner with 16 points.
Jamie Shwartz and Tyler Cassady added 13 and 12 points, respectively, in the loss for the Tracers.
Rio Grande returns to action on Saturday afternoon when Huntington (Ind.) University visits for a non-conference matchup. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.