Men’s basketball: Short-handed Tribe falls to Radford, 81-72

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Courtesy image / TRIBE ATHLETICS

Missing three starters to injury in senior forward Paul Rowley, junior guard Matt Milon and junior forward Justin Pierce, a short-handed William and Mary squad went punch-for-punch with Radford Tuesday, Nov. 20. In crunch time, however, the Highlanders’ experience shined, powering Radford (4-1) to an 81-72 win over the College (1-4).

“[Radford is] the 19th-most experienced team in the country,” head coach Tony Shaver said. “I mean, they’re talented, deep and experienced. I give them an awful lot of credit for what went on tonight. They’re really hard to guard.”

In a game where the Tribe started three freshmen for the first time in Shaver’s tenure, junior forward Nathan Knight stepped up to play one of the best games of his career. Knight scored five in a row as the College got out to a 10-8 lead. From there, Radford took control as a 12-2 spurt gave the Highlanders a lead they would hold for the rest of the half.

Knight, who had 19 points in the first half, kept the Tribe within striking distance for most of the period. But, after freshman guard Chase Audige hit two free throws to cut it to 28-25 with 6:16 left, Radford outscored the College 18-10 until halftime. The Highlanders entered the break with a 46-35 advantage.

“There had to be an improvement shooting the ball because that’s been a strength of ours for years,” Knight said. “That’s something that we’ve struggled with the past few games, so there was definitely something in the locker room that we had to talk about.”

The Tribe got to work right away in the second half, as freshman guard LJ Owens knocked down a three to cut the lead to six within the first minute. Radford responded, extending the edge to 54-45 at the under-16 media timeout.

Sophomore guard Jihar Williams then sparked a comeback, scoring eight of the next 10 Tribe points to pull the College within two, 57-55. Minutes later, Williams got a layup to go, tying the game at 61. The next possession, Audige hit a three, giving the Tribe its first lead since early in the first half.

“We had a couple guys out today, so other guys had to step up and help out,” Williams said. “We did a lot better defensively and started hitting shots [after halftime].”

As the two teams went back and forth, Knight put home a two-handed slam with 6:29 to play in the game. The 68-67 advantage it gave the Tribe would be its final lead of the game. Radford, led by guard Travis Fields, Jr., finished the game on a 14-4 run en route to an 81-72 victory.

“Little things cost you ball games,” Shaver said. “In the last two minutes, we didn’t contest two threes. … We got two stops and we didn’t get the rebounds. The guy who had an incredible night [Nathan Knight] has to go and get those for us.”

In 36 minutes, Knight finished with a career-high 32 points and nine rebounds. Audige scored 14 in 39 minutes, while Williams notched 10 points, all in the second half. Guard Carlik Jones led the way for Radford with 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

The Tribe next took the floor Saturday against Saint Joseph’s.