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After a devastating 40-88 loss to basketball powerhouse Kentucky University, the Highlanders looked to bounce back with three games in the first six days of December.
For the first of three games, the Highs traveled to South Carolina to face Charleston Southern University. The first half was a competitive, back and forth battle that ended in a 41-40 lead for RU.
RU lit it up from the three-point line in the first half, shooting an impressive 8-12. They were equally as successful on free throws and shot 9-10. However, the second half looked like a different ball game.
The Highs unstoppable shooting didn’t carry over to the second half. They struggled in the areas they succeeded earlier in the game. They shot 3-10 on both three pointers and free throws. They were also careless with fouls, resulting in 26 free throws for CSU in the second half.
The final score was 73-83 for CSU. Freshman guard RJ Price led the team in scoring with 15 points.
For their second game, RU was on the road again, this time versus Presbyterian College. Unlike in the game against CSU, they shot consistently in both halves. Unfortunately, the consistency was made up of uncharacteristically bad shooting.
Although the teams overall shooting percentages weren’t reputable, a few players made individual impacts on the game. Senior forward Johnathan Edwards was 7-14 on field goals, with a total of 16 points and nine rebounds.
Junior guard Blake Smith and freshman guard Javonte Green also played well, scoring a combined 29 points and 10 rebounds on 12-21 shooting. Despite the strong play from the three, the Highs fell to Presbyterian, 64-72.
After five losses, RU was certainly motivated to make their return to the Dedmon Center to take on University of North Carolina Charlotte.
The Highs had an extra hop in their step during their pre-game introductions. They looked motivated and ready to snap their losing streak.
Even though they seemed ready to go, RU found themselves behind 2-12 in the first few minutes of the game. Head coach Mike Jones was enraged and called a timeout to regroup his team. The team came out of the break looking even more motivated than before. Their defensive pressure escalated and they started forcing turnovers.
After a basket by sophomore forward Tolga Cerrah, Javonte Green energized the stadium with a put-back dunk and then a fast break dunk a few seconds after. It was suddenly a one-possession game after an 8-0 run by RU.
“Everybody on the team was like okay, we’re here, let’s go, we’re ready to play,” said Edwards on the dunks by Green.
But, the high-tempo attack didn’t continue. By halftime, RU fell behind by nine points.
From the beginning of the second half, the Highs struggles continued. The two teams continually traded baskets and the score stayed around a 10-point deficit for the first ten minutes.
But once again the momentum shifted. This time it was due to Blake Smith. He pickpocketed the opposition and took the ball down the floor and finished with an emphatic fast break dunk. A few moments later, Smith caught and dunked an alley-oop. The score was cut down to 34-42.
However, the momentum wasn’t quite enough to put the Highs on top. They couldn’t push past a five-point deficit. With about a minute left, the score was 47-52. Typical late game intentional fouling occurred, eventually giving UNCC an eight-point lead. UNCC held on the rest of the way, and eventually won by a score of 57-49
“Once we struggled a little bit with making shots their defense clamped up even more, so I give all of the credit to them. They played a great defensive game,” said Coach Jones.
Edwards and Green were the only two players for the Highs that recorded double digit points. However, Green shot 4-9 from the field compared to Edwards 4-15.
After the game, Edwards said, “We’ve got to do a better job at coming out. Starting fast and finishing faster.”
Coach Jones felt the same way, saying that, “you can’t spot them a 10 point lead…I thought that was the difference. The rest of the game was a pretty even game but when they came out and got that run it gave them some confidence.”
The Highs look to make the best of their four-day period of practice and rest before they match up against George Mason University at the Dedmon Center on Dec. 10 at 4 p.m.
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