Radford University’s hot shooting may take the headlines, but it was an impressive defensive stand over the final moments that earned an 81-72 victory over William & Mary at Kaplan Arena on Tuesday night.
With the Highlanders narrowly leading 72-70 in a game that could have gone either way, the defense stepped up in a major way and prevented The Tribe from hitting a single field goal over the final 4-minutes and 49-seconds of the game. Over that span, Radford went on a 9-2 run while recording two blocks and a steal to secure the victory.
Radford moves to 4-1 on the season and finishes the Gotham Classic with a 3-1 record, tying both Notre Dame and Duquesne. Meanwhile, William & Mary falls to 1-4 on the year and goes winless against a very talented tournament field.
Redshirt sophomore guard Carlik Jones was the catalyst for the Highlanders, posting 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. Junior guard Travis Fields Jr. (12), junior guard Donald Hicks (10) and senior guard Caleb Tanner (10) each finished in double figures as well.
The Highlanders came out on fire, shooting 71.4-percent (20-for-28) from the floor in the first half. Hicks got the scoring started with a tough drive and layup in the opening minute of the contest and the pace never slowed from there.
Trailing 10-8 at the 15:29 mark, Radford went on an impressive 12-2 run to go ahead 20-12 by the time 11:58 appeared on the clock. The run was capped by back-to-back baskets from sophomore forward Leroy Butts IV immediately after entering the game from the bench.
William & Mary refused to go quietly on its home floor however, battling back to make it a 3-point game with just over six minutes to go in the half. The Highlanders went on an absolute tear from there, making 11 of their final 12 shots in the period to take a 46-35 into halftime.
A 20-11 run by W&M erased most of Radford’s lead, bringing the score to 57-55 with 12:22 left in regulation. The Tribe then completed their frantic comeback effort, taking a 64-61 lead midway through the second half – their first since the 16:32 mark in the first half.
The scoreboard pinballed back-and-forth for the rest of the game until Radford managed to regain control in the end. Overall, there were 14 lead changes and two ties. The Highlanders finished 32-for-55 (58.2%) on field goals and 12-for-15 (80.0%) from the free throw line.
Junior forward/center Nathan Knight was unstoppable for William & Mary on the night, going 13-for-20 from the floor and 6-for-6 from the free throw line to record a career-high 32 points. As a team, the Tribe shot 48.2-percent (27-56) from the floor and 86.7-percent (13-15) at the charity stripe, but Radford held them to a lowly 20.0-percent (5-20) from beyond the arc.
Radford ended a historic winning streak for William & Mary on Tuesday night. The Tribe had won 24 straight non-conference home games at Kaplan Arena dating back to 2013. The streak was the second-longest in program history and the seventh-longest such streak in the nation entering the game.
Coach Jones and his staff usually go deep into their bench in games where the Highlanders are either leading or trailing by a large margin late in a game, but on Tuesday night they decided to test their depth early.
Devonnte Holland, Caleb Tanner, Cle’von Greene, Leroy Butts IV and Devin Hutchinson all saw playing time and made considerable contributions, combining for 18 points in the first half alone.
Radford finally returns to the Dedmon Center to face Glenville State on Monday, Nov. 26 at 7 pm.