By: Taylor Newman
This has been a year of firsts for Radford Men’s Basketball. It’s the first time in ten years RU won 20 regular season games. They were selected for participation in post-season play for the first time since 2009 and under Head Coach Mike Jones.
On Wednesday, March 19, the Highlanders made their first appearance in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) when they played Oregon State in the opening round. With a 96-92 win, it was the first time RU has ever won a post-season game.
After losing in the quarterfinal round of the Big South Conference Tournament to UNC Asheville, the Highlanders looked to regroup against the Pac-12 Beavers. Led by sophomore Ya Ya Anderson’s 23 points and 20 apiece from juniors Javonte Green and R.J. Price, RU came out with a wire-to-wire victory.
In what was a game dominated by offensive play, the Highlanders jumped out to a quick 14-4 lead in the first four minutes. RU racked up 57 points in the first half. Behind 69 percent shooting from the field and nine three point baskets, the Highs held a 12-point margin headed into the locker room at intermission.
Although OSU made runs in the second half and cut the lead to as little as three on a few occasions, Radford held on to close the game. The Beavers pulled within two points of the Highs with ten seconds left. The referee blew his whistle indicating a foul occurred, which sent sophomore Rashun Davis to the line.
Splitting the pair, the Highs went up three. OSU’s Roberto Nelson attempted to make a 45-foot shot, trying to draw a foul, but no call was made. Green was fouled off the rebound and his made shot sealed the win for RU.
Following a three day break, the Highlanders season officially ended on Monday after traveling to Norfolk to face Old Dominion University in the quarterfinals of the CBI. The two schools had never met prior to the matchup.
The Highlanders stumbled through the first half of the game. Right from the start, RU got a glimpse of ODU’s strong offensive play when they quickly fell behind after an 11-0 run gave the Monarchs an 11-3 lead to start the game.
Struggling to make baskets, the Highs were just 30 percent from the field in the first half, and only 1-9 from 3-point range. Green led the team with 10 points.
Headed into the locker room, ODU was up 39-23 against Radford.
Coming out of the break, the Highlanders were able to cut the lead to just 11 points, but could never fully recover, as the Monarchs ran out to a 56-35 lead with 12 minutes left in the game. Although Green posted a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds and Anderson added 11 points, RU’s season ultimately came to an end with an 82-59 loss.
The Highs were outrebounded 44-29 and only made 12-26 from the free throw line. They finished the season with a 22-13 overall record, tying the school’s mark for wins as a Division I member.
Under Coach Jones’ three years at RU, the Highs have made headway in the right direction each season. In his first year, the team finished the season with a 6-26 record. Last year, the Highlanders doubled their win category to end with a 13-19 record. This year, the team turned full circle, and finished the year with a 22-13 record.
It is through these results, the team looks forward to another improved season in 2015.