It was a tale of two halves as the Radford men’s basketball team trailed big at halftime, but battled back with a strong second half performance until ultimately falling, 77-62, to Nevada at the Lawlor Events Center on Sunday afternoon.
With the loss, Radford moves back to .500 at 5-5 while Nevada, who has ranked as high as No. 22 in the nation this season, improves to 9-2 on the season.
Down by 16 coming out of halftime, the Highlanders came out firing and went on a 7-0 run to return the deficit back to single digits. A 75-percent shooting percentage on the first eight shots of the half signaled a renewed confidence for the team.
That momentum continued through the period as Radford cut Nevada’s lead all the way down to four (50-46) with just over 11 minutes left to play, but that was as close as the Highlanders would get for the rest of the game.
The Wolf Pack fended off Radford’s best efforts and continued to hit shots along the way. Three baskets in the paint and two made free throws in the final two minutes sealed the game away.
Redshirt freshman guard Carlik Jones earned the first starting nod of his career and made the most of it, dropping a team-high 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting to go along with six rebounds, two assists and two steals across a career-high 32 minutes. 10 of his points came in the second half, a 20-minute stretch in which Radford shot 48.1-percent (13-27) as opposed to 28.1-percent (9-32) in the first half.
Senior center Randy Phillips joined Jones in double-figure scoring with 11 points and five boards.
Defense kept the Highlanders in the game early, limiting the high-scoring Wolf Pack to just 15 points through the first 13 minutes of the game. Phillips went to work in the post and scored the first six points of the contest, but Radford couldn’t find its stroke as Nevada hung around.
Radford went scoreless from 14:34 to 11:26 before Nevada went on a scoreless streak on its own from 11:14 to 7:06. The low-scoring affair quickly gave way to a Wolf Pack scoring spree as they took the lead and kept it for a good.
The hosts exploded on an 18-3 run across four minutes of play, taking the game from a two-point contest to a game-high deficit of 17 points for the Highlanders. Six blocks in the first half alone for Nevada contributed to the Highlanders’ scoring less than 30 points in the first half for the first time all season. Radford couldn’t find the bottom of the net for the final 4:02 of the period and went into the locker room trailing 40-24.
Junior Jordan Caroline led the way for the Wolf Pack, posting a 25-point, 15 rebound double-double. Senior Kendall Stephens poured in 19 points and junior Cody Martin swatted five shots away to help Nevada take the win.
Junior Caleb Martin, twin brother of Cody, was averaging 19.7 points heading into Sunday’s contest, but was completely shut down for three points and eventually fouled out.
This trip is the first time Radford has played on the west coast since playing in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic during the 2013-14 season. The team went 2-2 in that tournament. Redshirt freshman guard Carlik Jones earned a spot in the starting lineup for the first time in his career
10 different Highlanders contributed to the final tally of 62 points. The team has posted at least 60 points in every game this season. With two tonight, junior guard Caleb Tanner has now hit at least one 3-pointer in nine of 10 games this season while hitting at least two in eight of those games.
Ed Polite Jr. got a steal in the first half to bring his career total to 95. He already passed the 100 career assists and 100 career blocks marks earlier this season.
Nevada out-rebounded the Highlanders, 45-33. The Wolf Pack pushed the pace throughout the game and ended with a 20-2 advantage in fast break points. Radford held the opposition without a single 3-point field goal in the second half (0-10).
“In order to win meaningful games, beat good teams and win a championship down the road, you’ve got to be able to play your best for as close to 40 minutes as you possibly can. You’re going to have your share of mistakes here and there, but you’ve got to limit those mistakes so teams can’t take advantage like they have been. We’re building towards where we want to be and hopefully we continue to get better each game,” said Head Coach Mike Jones.
The Highlanders continue the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic in San Francisco where they will take on the USF Dons. San Francisco is currently 6-4 after falling to Stanford, 71-59, on Sunday afternoon