Led by Carlik Jones, the Radford men’s basketball team pulled away in the second half to defeat High Point, 73-62, on Saturday to open conference play.
Jones carried the squad with 26 points, six rebounds and five assists. It was his sixth game with 20-plus points and he also added one steal and one block. He notched a season-high with 10 free throws, shooting a perfect 10-for-10.
The key to the win for Radford (6-7, 1-0 Big South) was an 18-2 second-half run. High Point (3-11, 0-1 Big South) in turn made a run at the Highlanders with a 9-5 spurt but ran out of time.
The High Point Panthers actually led 51-50 with 10:25 left to play. A layup from Chyree Walker put Radford back into the later. Moments later, Travis Fields, Jr., found Josiah Jeffers open on the right wing and he nailed a 3-ball. One possession later, the starting point guard pulled up from the free throw line and found the bottom of the net. The seven unanswered points from Radford put the Panthers in a 57-51 hole.
They couldn’t recover as Radford kept scoring. With 3:14 to play, the Highlanders had built a 15-point lead.
The best High Point could do was to cut the RU lead to nine points two times, once at the foul line with 1:08 to play and again with 29 seconds remaining. However, Jones hit his ninth and 10th free throws with 16 seconds on the clock to put Saturday’s game away. The Highlanders went 5-for-6 from the free throw line through the final 1:08.
Both teams threw haymakers at each other in the first 10 minutes of the second half, as there were four ties and nine lead changes. That all finally changed finally when Walker hit the layup inside 10 minutes that sparked the run.
Jones’ perfect 10-for-10 from the free-throw line marked the first time that has happened since the 2017-18 season when he went 11-for-11 against Charleston Southern.
Radford shot 50 percent from the floor in each half and 33.3 percent from the 3-point line in each half. The Highlanders went 19-for-26 from the charity stripe, led by Jones’ perfect performance. Fields Jr., was one point shy of tying his season-high, but ended with 16 points going 6-for-10 from the floor and 2-for-4 from the 3-point line. Devine Eke was one rebound away from his second double-double of the season but ended with 10 points and nine boards. Each team totaled 33 rebounds and Radford forced 13 turnovers.
“It’s good to get that first league game under our belt,” head coach Mike Jones said. “We have to understand how intense these games are going to be. There are not going to be any easy wins, especially if we’re trying to get where we want to be.
“Everybody wants the same thing and they’re going to be fighting for it. [High Point] is well coached; obviously Tubby Smith is going to be in the Hall of Fame one day, so getting a chance to go up against one of his teams, you know you better be ready,” the boss Highlander said. “You know [Coach Smith’s team] is going to play hard; you know it’s going to defend and rebound, and they did that tonight. They made it tougher on us, but I thought our guys really did a good job of finishing the game.”