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Radford University Men’s Basketball hit a rough patch this week when they dropped two Big South matchups. A heartbreaking 69-70 loss to Virginia Military Institute on Jan. 30 spilled over into a 52-62 disappointment on the road at Coastal Carolina University on Feb. 2 as the Highlanders dropped to 10-13 (4-5) on the season.
When RU faced off against VMI in the Dedmon Center, The Highlanders bombarded VMI with 3-pointers, hitting nine during the game. Sophomore guard R.J. Price was especially effective behind the line, hitting 6-11 from 3-point land.
While VMI held the lead by as much as 10 points for much of the first half, the Highlanders came storming back on the heels of Price and senior guard Blake Smith to tie the game at a score of 26-26. Radford forced 12 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, a few of which sparked the RU comeback to tie the game.
After back and forth action at the start of the second half, a pair of consecutive 3-point baskets by Price gave Radford a lead
that they wouldn’t surrender until the final seconds.
With 11 minutes left in the second half, sirens inside the Dedmon Center interrupted the game. The game was halted and the arena was evacuated for about six minutes before players and fans were allowed back in. Building staff confirmed that steam inside the building triggered the alarms, but it turned out to be a false alarm. Play resumed approximately 12 minutes after the evacuation.
Sophomore guard Javonte Green finished the game with a career-high five assists on the night, while Price had a game-high 26 points.
A 3-point basket by VMI inside of six minutes kept the game interesting, as the score stood at 60-57. A free throw by freshman forward Lucas Dyer and two more from Green gave the Highlanders a six-point lead with less than two minutes remaining.
A free throw battle ensued with two minutes left, and RU drained 8-14 from the charity stripe. Unfortunately for the Highlanders, VMI’s Stan Okoye scored 16 points in the final six minutes, including a last-second layup that sealed the win for the Keydets.
“I think this one hurt the most,” Price said after the game. “We could’ve done something about it, but we chose our own destiny. We could’ve made our free throws; something as simple as making our free throws would’ve ended the game. We just didn’t take care of business.”
“It wasn’t just the free throws,” said head coach Mike Jones. “[VMI] only shot 40 percent from the floor, but because they got [second chance points]…it probably would’ve been 35 percent or 33 percent, but we allowed them to get second chance shots. You can’t miss free throws and not rebound. It’s bad enough not to do one, but when you put them both together, at home or on the road, you’re going to have a hard time winning the game.”
The loss gave Radford a 4-4 record in the conference, but the Highlanders didn’t have much time to dwell on what could have been. They had another game at Coastal Carolina three days later, with the Chanticleers sitting at a similarly precarious 4-4 record.
Several Highlanders set career-high marks against CCU. Sophomore forward Jalen Carethers had a career-high eight rebounds and four blocks, while Lucas Dyer scored a career-high eight points.
Despite a strong defensive showing from the entire team, the Highlanders lacked on offense. Green led the way with 12 points for the Highs, but no other Highlander scored in double digits. As a team, RU shot only 28 percent from the field, and went just 5-23 from 3-point land. RU never led after the first few minutes, and CCU eventually notched a 62-52 victory over the Highlanders.
The Highs fell to Liberty University Tuesday night by a score of 70-75. The loss dropped RU to 10-14 and 4-6 in the Big South. It was their third loss in a row. Green led the team in scoring with 23 points.
RU will now return to the Dedmon Center on Feb. 9, where they will face off against Presbyterian College in a game scheduled to tip off at 2 p.m.