Radford was unable to avenge a loss for the third straight game as Gardner-Webb repeated its performance from the first meeting and defeated the Highlanders by the same 70-59 score Wednesday night.
Ed Polite, Jr. posted his 12th double-double of the season, tallying a season-high 24 points to go along with 11 rebounds. However, Gardner-Webb dominated the final 10 minutes of the first half and maintained control the rest of the way.
The game opened as a seesaw affair featuring 10 lead changes and five ties as both teams got off to strong starts offensively. Polite, Jr. scored four early points and three different Highlanders made 3-pointers, capped by Justin Cousin’s that gave them a 19-17 edge.
However, turnovers started to prove costly from that point as Gardner-Webb used an 8-0 run to open up a 25-19 lead. It was a five-point game with 5:29 left in the half when a 9-2 Runnin’ Bulldogs spurt pushed their advantage into double-digits at 12 and a 3-pointer at the buzzer made it a 44-31 margin at the break.
Radford shot 54 percent in the opening 20 minutes, but 13 turnovers led to 17 Gardner-Webb points and the Runnin’ Bulldogs shot 58 percent, thanks to 30 points in the paint and 15 fast-break points.
Both teams’ shooing dropped significantly in the second half and neither team was able to make any kind of run as the Gardner-Webb lead ranged in the low double-digits nearly the entire time. The Highlanders got within eight on a layup by Christian Lutete with 3:46 to play, but no closer as shots didn’t fall.
The 24 points were three shy of his career-best, which came against Howard last season, and his fourth 20-point outing of the season. It was his 11th double-figure scoring game in the last 12 contests.
He grabbed double-digit rebounds for the 13th time this season and collected six on the offensive end, while adding a team-high two steals.
However, no other Radford player reached double figures. Lutete was closest with eight, along with three rebounds.
The Highlanders finished with 19 turnovers, their highest total since the 22 it had in the last game against Gardner-Webb. The Runnin’ Bulldogs turned them in 27 points in that one and collected 21 points this time.
Radford did have a 39-32 rebounding advantage, including 16 offensive that led to 14 second-chance points, but GWU had a 36-30 edge in points in the paint.
After making three of its first five 3-pointers, the Highlanders were just two of 14 the rest of the way, including one for 11 in the second half.
Gardner-Webb had five players in double figures, led by Davide Efianayi’s 14, and another who scored nine. LaQuincy Rideau posted 10 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists and four steals. The Runnin’ Bulldogs finished at 49 percent from the field, compared to 42 percent for Radford.
They’re a tough team to play when you’re struggling with taking care of the ball. (The turnovers) just feed them and even though 70 is not a whole lot of points, it just makes it harder for us to score because we’re not getting quality possessions. Our point guard issues really come to light against a guy like Rideau, who’s top five in the nation in stealing the ball and just causes havoc when we’re trying to do anything. Ed was able to drive the ball and score or get to the free throw line or kick it to somebody. That was our best offense in the first half, but we just didn’t have enough possessions. Just a tough, frustrating game when you turn it over and don’t even get a chance to get a shot up,” said Radford head coach Mike Jones.
Radford plays back-to-back conference home games for the first time, beginning today against in-state foe Longwood. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. inside the Dedmon Center, following the Highlander women’s game against Presbyerian, which starts at 2 p.m.
— Courtesy of RU Athletics