Radford 76, Winthrop 64

Radford blunts Winthrop second half comeback

bmccormick@heraldonline.comJanuary 29, 2014 

The Radford men answered an early second half run by Winthrop on Wednesday night and later pulled away for a 76-64 win over the Eagles.

The Highlanders led by 10 at the break, but five quick points from the Eagles in the second half’s opening exchanges cut the lead to 42-37. Last Saturday, in Winthrop’s win over Virginia Military Institute, Pat Kelsey’s team marched on from that initial second half run, nicking a win from the Keydets at the last second. But Radford, which never trailed, got a couple of quick buckets at the rim after Winthrop’s quick start, and switched into an active zone defense that stanched the hosts comeback.

“A good team, they’re gonna come back, especially at home,” said Radford coach Mike Jones. “We held our ground. We held our ground and were able to finish against a good team on their home court.”

Radford (14-8, 4-3 Big South) looked like the team that started the conference season 3-1, not the club that dropped its last two games. Winthrop (10-9, 4-3), meanwhile, continued its recent trend of falling into sizable first half pits.

“It was fool’s gold on Saturday,” Kelsey said, referencing the VMI comeback. “You can’t do that consistently against good teams and think you’re gonna win games.”

Winthrop entered the game ranked last in offensive efficiency during conference play, and their struggles continued again. Radford offered a blueprint the Eagles would like to emulate, hitting 5 of 10 from 3-point range while scoring 34 points in the paint, knocking down 19 of 21 free throws and shooting over 60 percent from the floor. That balance has been sorely lacking for Winthrop, which got six combined points from its four recognized big men.

“Top to bottom, they might be the most talented team in the league,” said Kelsey. “They have very good balance; they can score inside, from the perimeter and in transition. I felt like the pace of their offense early on was running at a really, really high level.”

Late in the game, Winthrop’s offense hinged on senior Joab Jerome’s ability to create off the dribble. Jerome led the Eagles with 17, but Radford All-Big South player Javonte Green defended him well in the closing stages. Keon Johnson and Keon Moore added 12 each and Andre Smith 11 for Winthrop. Green scored 14 for the Highlanders, while guard Ya Ya Anderson scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half, including eight points during Radford’s 13-3 run that stiff-armed Winthrop’s comeback bid.

“He really struggled with the fact that he had picked up his second foul in the first half and he picked up one early in the second half but I trust him, and I put him back out there and he was able to play a long stretch,” said Jones. “He’s a good offensive player and he was able to knock some big shots down. Those were big, kind of stemmed the tide.”

“Ya Ya’s a good player, a good shooter, and he just beat us,” Jerome said afterward.

Anderson’s offensive contributions early in the second half proved key, as Winthrop looked set for a repeat of Saturday’s performance against VMI. It was a dominant first half performance by Radford, where the Highlanders led by as many as 20 points, that enabled them to play the entire game with the lead.

In the game’s first six minutes, the visitors were 6 of 8 from the floor, while Winthrop made just 1 of its 7 field goal attempts, helping the Highlanders build an 18-2 lead. That advantage ballooned to 28-8 after Kyle Noreen’s 3 and Brandon Holcomb’s smart-looking left-handed hook in the lane. Holcomb and the other Radford post players abused the Eagles in the first half, scoring 22 points in the paint, a trend that continued much of the night.

Bret McCormick •  803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T

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