Men's Basketball releases schedule

By RANDY PAYTON
Rio Grande Sports Information

RIO GRANDE, Ohio - Six November home dates and a pair of games of NCAA Division I opponents highlight the University of Rio Grande's 2013-14 men's basketball schedule released Tuesday by head coach Ken French.

The RedStorm will also once again host the annual Bevo Francis Tournament, as well as a pair of "Classic" events among the 16 games on the home slate.

"We're excited about the team we're going to have this season and the schedule that we've been able to put together," said French. "Our conference remains one of the toughest - if not the toughest - NAIA Division I leagues in the country and, since we have to play two league games before Thanksgiving for the second straight year, at least we have the opportunity to play those games at home."

Rio Grande will also face a pair of NCAA Division I foes for the third consecutive season, squaring off with Marshall University of Conference USA in the club's lone November road game and traveling south in late December for a meeting with the University of Central Florida - a member of the newly-formed American Athletic Conference - as part of the UCF Classic.

Last season, the RedStorm posted its first win over an NCAA Division I foe since the Bevo Francis-era with a 67-65 triumph at Campbell University of the Big South Conference.

"We're very blessed once again to have the opportunity to receive the exposure that comes with playing schools from the top level of college basketball," French said. "To be honest, we really didn't think we'd get that chance again after our win at Campbell last year. Fortunately, coach Herrion and coach Jones were both kind enough to extend an offer to us this season. We know that those games will be big challenges for our players but, at the same time, our kids are pretty excited about the opportunity."

The 2013-14 season begins with the Saunders Insurance Tipoff Classic, Nov. 8 and 9, at the Newt Oliver Arena. The RedStorm will face Miami University-Hamilton in an 8 p.m. tipoff on the 8th and will battle Indiana University-Kokomo at 3 p.m. on the 9th.

A short trip south to Huntington, W.Va. for the get together with Marshall comes on Nov. 12, before Rio returns home for the annual Bevo Francis Invitational Tournament as part of Homecoming weekend, Nov. 15 and 16.

The RedStorm will meet Cincinnati-Clermont in its Homecoming Game at 8 p.m. on the 15th and will tangle with either Cincinnati Christian University or Ohio University-Chillicothe on the 16th at 5 p.m.

Home tilts with Mid-South Conference rivals Cumberland (Tenn.) University and Lindsey Wilson College close out the month of November. The Bulldogs visit for an 8 p.m. tip on Nov. 21, while the Blue Raiders will be in town for a 4 p.m. game on the 23rd.

The December portion of the schedule begins with a three-game road swing.

Rio will play at Ohio Christian University on Dec. 3, at 8 p.m., before heading to Indiana to participate in Taylor University's Ivanhoe Classic Dec. 6 and 7. The RedStorm will face Berea (Ky.) College in the opening round of the event at 8 p.m. on the 6th, and will face either the host Trojans or Indiana University-Darby the following day.

The club will be back home on Dec. 14 for a 5:45 p.m. showdown with former America Mideast Conference rival Wilberforce University as part of the annual Newt Oliver Coaches Classic, which celebrates the school's legendary former coach and Rio Grande alums who are actively involved in coaching.

A quartet of high school games are also on the Classic docket with Chesapeake (OH) facing Logan (OH) at 12:45 p.m., South Point (OH) tangling with Circleville (OH) at 2:15 p.m., Oak Hill (OH) battling River Valley (OH) at 4 p.m. and Gallia Academy (OH) squaring off with Tolsia (WV) in the 7:45 p.m. nightcap.

The RedStorm will then entertain Ohio Christian in a special noon matinee game for the students at Rio Grande Elementary School on Tuesday, Dec. 17, before heading to Orlando, Fla. for the UCF Classic on Dec. 21 and 22. Rio will meet the host Knights on the opening night, before meeting another NAIA school, Southeastern University of the Sun Conference, the following afternoon. Times for the two games have yet to be announced.

The final non-conference game on the schedule is set for Dec. 30, at 7 p.m., with Cincinnati-Clermont makes a return visit to the Newt.

Rio will begin the new calendar year with road trips to the University of the Cumberlands (Jan. 2) and Georgetown College (Jan. 4), before opening a three-game homestand against Shawnee State University (Jan. 11), St. Catharine College (Jan. 16) and Campbellsville University (Jan. 18).

January ends with trips to the University of Pikeville (Jan. 23) and Bluefield College (Jan. 25) and a home game with Georgetown on the 30th.

The University of the Cumberlands visits Rio on Feb. 1, before the RedStorm sets sail on a three-game road swing to Shawnee State (Feb. 6), Campbellsville (Feb. 13) and St. Catharine (Feb. 15).

Bluefield and Pikeville provide the opposition for the final two home games of the season on Feb. 20 and 22, respectively, while games at Lindsey Wilson (Feb. 27) and Cumberland University (Mar. 1) round out the regular season.

Cumberland will also host the Mid-South Conference Tournament, which is set for March 6-9.

"It's nice that we have as many home dates as we do again this season," French said. "But, like always, this league is a physical and mental challenge. It takes a lot out of you as a player and a coach. It will be interesting to see how our young men respond."