The Radford men’s basketball team sustained both its first Big South Conference loss and home defeat of the season Wednesday evening, falling to Gardner-Webb 70-59 inside the Dedmon Center.
Caleb Tanner led the Highlanders in scoring for the third game in a row, tallying 12 points on four 3-pointers, while Randy Phillips posted his first double-double in a Radford uniform with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
However, the Highlanders trailed most of the game after shooting just 32 percent in the first half. After building an early 10-4 lead, Radford tallied just one field goal over a span of more than 10 minutes as Gardner-Webb went on a 18-2 run to build a 22-12 advantage. Jamaal Robateau hit three first-half 3-pointers as the Runnin’ Bulldogs led 29-21 at the break.
It was an 11-point margin less than seven minutes into the second half, before the Highlanders made a comeback bid. A trio of 3-pointers by Tanner around one by Christian Lutete keyed 16-5 spurt that evened the game at 49-49 with 8:16 to play. However, Gardner-Webb responded with nine straight points to regain control. Tyrell Nelson hit a jumper and the Runnin’ Bulldogs added two layups and a dunk in the run for a 58-49 edge with 4:43 left.
Tanner tried to answer for Radford with his fourth trey, but Gardner-Webb scored seven of the next eight points after that, pulling out to a 10-point margin with less than two minutes remaining.
After missing both of his shots in the first half, Tanner was four of seven from the field in the second, tallying his sixth double-digit game of the season.
Phillips shot five of 12 from the field to reach double figures for the second time. His 12 rebounds tied a career-high and included eight on the offensive end.
Ed Polite, Jr. just missed his sixth double-double of the campaign, tallying nine points and 13 rebounds, while adding three assists.
Radford did continue its domination on the glass, outrebounding its opponent for the 11th time in 12 games with a 42-30 advantage in this one. However, that led to only an 11-8 edge in second-chance points.
The Highlanders improved to 46 percent shooting in the second half (including 7 of 11 on 3-pointers), but finished at 39 percent (22 of 56) for the game, its worst performance of the season at home.
Radford also committed 22 turnovers that led to 27 Gardner-Webb points.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs shot 50 percent or better in each half and finished at 52 percent for the game, due to its domination in the paint as they totaled 42 points in the lane, compared to just 22 for the Highlanders.
Nelson, who was coming off two quiet games due to illness, led the way with 19 points on 8 of 10 shooting. Robateau finished with 14 points and Brandon Miller tied his career-high with 12 off the bench.
“Our guys know that you can’t depend on making shots night in and night out. So we have to hang our hat on our defensive intensity and our rebounding effort. Tonight I didn’t think we had the energy that we needed from the start of the game to the finish. We had it for a stretch and were able to tie it up, but it wasn’t consistent. They were the hardest playing team tonight and they were able to extend the lead again. Turnovers have been an Achilles heel for us so far and until we get that under control, we’re going to have nights like this where it’s not that they’re beating us as much as we’re beating ourselves,” said Radford head coach Mike Jones.
— Courtesy of RU Athletics