Winter Radford sports recap

by Jason Blocker | jblocker2@radford.edu

While students across campus were given the leisure of a lengthy winter break, the Highlander men’s and women’s basketball teams, along with women’s track & field were hard at work.

Men’s basketball faced off against nine worthy opponents over break, escaping with a record of 4-5. Their break began on a sour note, dropping away games to UNC Wilmington and No. 11 West Virginia. Ed Polite, Jr. shined during their loss to UNC Wilmington. Going 9-for-12 from the field, Polite led the Highlanders in total scoring with 22 points in their 100-64 defeat. Justin Cousin stood out in Morgantown with his aggressive play against WVU. His 4-for-7 shooting performance is all the more impressive, given all four of his shots made were long range threes.

The men’s team knew they needed to bounce back strong after their second straight loss, sequentially securing three straight wins in the following days. To begin the streak, Radford was home to Grace College and 2015-2016 Big South Champion, UNC Asheville. While hosting Grace College, three different Highlanders scored double digits, giving Radford an 82-58 win. The surprise of the break came when Radford hosted top seeded UNC Asheville. Radford needed Caleb Tanner’s biggest scoring day of his career, along with Polite’s icy veins to seal a 80-77 overtime thriller against Asheville. Tanner scored an incredible 24 points, draining 6-of-8 three-pointers along the way. Polite used his go-ahead bucket in the final minute of overtime to lift the Highlanders in their first upset of the 2016-2017 season. Their third consecutive win was met at Winthrop University, where Radford clinched its first road win of the season. The men relied on a season-high 16 three pointers, six of which came from Justin Cousin, to win another tightly contested Big South Conference match 82-80. Their last win of the break came in Clinton, S.C. against Presbyterian College. Donald Hicks stepped up huge, scoring a career-high 18 points. Cousin, Tanner and Polite were not far behind Hicks in the stat sheet.

Their final three contests were all losses against Big South conference foes, making their conference record 2-3 out of the break. The first loss came by the hands of the Bulldogs from Gardner-Webb, Radford’s first conference defeat, along with the first time the Highlanders had given up a game in Dedmon this season. Tanner led all scorers again with 12 points off of four three-pointers. The men then traveled to take on Charleston Southern University. Shooting at just 33 percent, the Highlanders struggled to keep up, losing their second straight by a score of 70-64. The winter break ended for the Highlanders with a loss, when the Flames of Liberty University traveled to Dedmon in another overtime thriller. Down by 25 points, Radford had shot a miserable 4-for-26 in the first half. They needed miraculous second-half performances by Cousin and Polite to complete the comeback and send the game into overtime. Unfortunately, the Highlanders comeback fell short, as Liberty sunk 12 free throws in overtime to bring Radford’s Big South record to 2-3 on the season.

The Women’s basketball team has been the star team this season, and they didn’t hold back during the winter break. Their road began with two extremely tough D-1 foes: No. 23 Virginia Tech and No. 19 Kentucky.

Their first road game, the women traveled to Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky. The high-powered Wildcats forced 19 turnovers and held Radford to just 30 percent shooting. This was enough to pull away from the Highlanders, as Kentucky won 59-36. The road for the women didn’t get any easier, as they were then scheduled to take on the undefeated Hokies of Virginia Tech. In Blacksburg, Radford hung in tight, until a 24-8 third quarter opened up the lead for the powerhouse Hokies. The two games against nationally ranked opponents saw spectacular play by Destinee Walker, Jayda Worthy and Claudia Quevedo.

     Radford ended their break on a five-game win streak, four of which were against Big South Conference foes. Radford used 19 points off of turnovers, along with a spectacular defensive effort, to first beat Concord 78-51, ending Radford’s non-conference schedule with an 8-3 record. Their next opponent began Big South conference play, as the Bulldogs from Gardner-Webb were the next to enter Dedmon. Star guard Jayda Worthy racked up a career-high 20 points, while the rest of her team made just under 50 percent of their shots, leading to a 67-57 Radford win. Then, in the first of two road games, the Highlanders traveled to take on Winthrop. After a first quarter drubbing, Radford got out to a 21-7 lead early on. Winthrop was unable to keep themselves in the game, while Worthy’s brilliant 2017 continued as she led Radford in scoring yet again. Traveling to Campbell University next, Radford was matched with a less-competitive team in the Camels. Radford dominated all aspects of the game for 40 minutes, as Radford embarrassed the Camels on their own court 61-42. After drubbing the Camels, the women were set to return to Dedmon to play the Flames of Liberty University. Four different players scored over 10 points to propel Radford over Liberty 73-55. This marks the first time since the 1997 season that Radford has started conference play with a 4-0 record.

     The women’s track team got their first taste of competition this year, as they competed in the Virginia Tech Invitational. Tenae Washington was the stand-out athlete for the Highlanders, as she placed 10th in the long jump at 5.26 meters. Joining Washington with a top-10 finish was Naihla Rose-Delia, who threw a distance of 14.60 meters in the shot-put to notch yet another top-10 finish on day one, before finishing 13th overall. The invitational also saw Katy Harriman notch a second-place finish in the high-jump, as Duke jumper Cassie Martin barely outlasted her for the gold. La’Tisha Chambers also sealed a top-10 finish, securing eighth in the long-jump with a 5.48m jump.

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