Saturday, January 05, 2013
Big South struggles spell opportunity for Radford
The Highlanders have only one senior, but they've already matched last year's win total.
Men’s basketball today
Charleston Southern at Radford
4 p.m., Dedmon Center
Records: Charleston Southern 5-6, 0-0 Big South Conference, Radford 6-8, 0-0
Notes: This is the conference opener for both teams. … Each is a charter member of the Big South and Radford has played more games against the Buccaneers than any other conference opponent. The series stands 41-24 in the Highlanders’ favor but the Bucs have won the last four and five of the last seven. … Charleston Southern was picked as the preseason favorite in the South Division, the first time the team earned such a distinction. … Charleston Southern ranks second in the league to VMI in scoring at 72.6 ppg and 3-pointers made with 100. … The Bucs lead the league in scoring margin (plus-10.2) . … Arlon Harper (16.2 ppg) and Saah Nimley (14.6 ppg) rank fifth and sixth in the Big South in scoring. The two of them have gone a combined 72-for-90 from the free throw line. . … Paul Gombwer is eight in the league in rebounding (6.9 rpg). … Radford’s Javonte Green is the conference leader in steals (2.3 spg) and R. J. Price tops the chart in treys per game with 2.8. … Freshman Kion Brown has started the last nine games at center and has averaged 9 ppg and 3 rpg. In two games during the stretch he recorded zero rebounds.
RADFORD -- As the Big South Conference men's basketball schedule opens today, the 12 members of the league are a combined 34 games under .500. Gardner-Webb has the only winning record.
Instead of focusing on the league's threadbare national profile, members of the 6-8 Radford University squad see opportunity.
"There's going to be a great opportunity to win the conference this year," said Blake Smith, the Highlanders' only senior and one of two players to have started every game this season. "I feel like a lot of the teams that were good last year have lost a lot of upperclassmen. Our core from last year got some great experience and we've meshed well with our new players."
Radford opens against Charleston Southern at 4 p.m. at the Dedmon Center. The heartening news is that the Highlanders have already matched their victory total from all of last season.
"We've done some things we were unable to accomplish last year in terms of number of wins at this point in the season," said second-year Radford coach Mike Jones. "Certainly that something we're proud of, making a big step there. But here again, we've had some opportunities that we haven't cashed in on."
Aside from a 16-point loss to Charlotte, seven of the defeats have been by 10 points or fewer. Opportunity squandered was a recurring theme throughout the early campaign.
The game at West Virginia on Dec. 22 furnished a good example of a typical wasted chance. Ready to play from the start, Radford trailed by four at the half and led 49-48 with 9 minutes 10 seconds to go. The Mountaineers fought back down the stretch and won 72-62.
"That was probably the best 32 minutes we've played all year," Smith said. "The game's 40 minutes, not 32."
Jones saw too much of that sort of failure to close out.
"We've had games both at home and on the road that we felt like we could have or should have won but didn't," Jones said. "So we've got a lot of improvement to do to be the kind of team that we want to be. The good thing about it is we still have a lot of the season to play in order to do that."
Radford will do so with a full complement. R.J. Price, along with teammate Javonte Green a member of the conference All-Freshman team last year, is back after missing a couple of games with an ankle problem. Rashun Davis, another freshman, stepped in and ably ran the offense until Green returned as a starter earlier this week against North Carolina A&T.
Another big contributor among the freshmen has been Ya Ya Anderson, who has scored in double figures in three of the last five games, including a season-high 21 this week, also against A&T.
"I think he was born a scorer," Jones said. "He was a scorer before he got here and he's a scorer now that he's gotten here."
Asked if he had any tips for incoming freshmen in the years to come, Anderson didn't hesitate.
"Get here in shape."