Virginia Tech 79, Radford 72

HokieCentral's Game Report

As I was driving home from work Wednesday, I heard Radford University's radio announcer, Dave Hunsacker (hope I spelled that right, Dave), talking about RU's upcoming game with Tech.  Dave talked about how Radford was going to throw a lot of "junk" defenses at Tech, like a box-and-one and a triangle-and-two.  He promised that Radford was going to mix it up on defense to try to confuse the young Hokies.

"Hmmm...that can't be good," I thought to myself.

And indeed, Radford's junk defenses and three-point shooting, along with an ankle injury to Tech's Jenis Grindstaff in the first minute, almost proved to be the Hokies' undoing.  With Grindstaff out, Myron Guillory and Brendan Dunlop had a hard time figuring out what offense to get the team into against the variety of Radford defenses (Coach Hussey said after the game, "Frankly, I'm disappointed" in Myron's and Brendan's ability to recognize the defenses and react properly).

Tech's hot shooting Eddie Lucas was gloved up by Radford's defense, which always had a man on Eddie as soon as he caught the ball.  Guillory was able to hit some early shots, and he wound up with 14 points on 5-8 shooting, including a scorching 4-6 from three-point range, but he didn't contribute much after the first half.

Meanwhile, Radford was persistent.  They were mostly ineffective inside, but they were on from the perimeter, hitting 10 of their first 21 three-point shots.

So what to do?  Answer: Rolan Roberts and Russ Wheeler.  The two frontcourt players had Radford's inside players clearly outmanned, and they combined for 40 of Tech's 79 points.

Although the Tech team struggled on offense from almost the very beginning of this game, Rolan was playing full speed from the opening whistle.  While the guards at times were sluggish in moving the ball around the perimeter, Rolan was diving all over the place and banging bodies, confident that last weekend's piddly foul calls wouldn't plague him on this night (he was right, by the way.  Tech was whistled for just 8 fouls to Radford's 22).

Roberts's desire was rewarded in the second half, when his effort finally started translating into points, including a slew of dunks and low-post moves that the Radford players couldn't handle.  It seemed that every time Radford took the lead, Rolan had an answer for it, and indeed, Bill Roth detailed three separate times in the last fifteen minutes of the game when Radford took the lead and Rolan answered with a bucket.

Meanwhile, Russ Wheeler was contributing just as much, albeit in less spectacular fashion.  Since going scoreless against South Carolina, Russ has totaled 19 and 20 points in his last two games.  He is finally playing consistently and with confidence, demonstrating the soft touch that he showed flashes of last year as a freshman.  While Rolan was dunking the ball and pumping his fists and blocking shots, Russ was quietly matching him point for point on mid-range jumpers and masterful low-post moves.  In the end, Radford had no solution for the two of them, and they each finished with 20 points in leading Tech to victory.

The Hokies started to pull away late, and when they stretched the lead to about seven, Radford began fouling with 1:32 to go.  Tech was having an uncharacteristically awful night from the line (17 of 32 - boy did we miss Grindstaff there), and the strategy almost worked.  Radford was foiled by an unusual intentional foul call that gave Tech two shots and the ball and allowed them to maintain the lead while they were struggling from the line.  In the meantime, Radford was missing their last five three-pointers, and their fate was sealed.

Game Notes:  there was an announced crowd of 6,748, and I estimate that 700-1000 of that were Radford fans.  There's nothing to get you fired up like a healthy contingent of opposing fans in your coliseum ... the Tech students showed up in decent numbers.  They showed up late, but nevertheless, they showed up ... I have no details at this point on Grindstaff's ankle injury, which occurred when his foot landed on a Radford player's foot ... Radford also couldn't handle Andre Ray's athleticism.  Ray slipped, slithered, and jumped his way to 7 rebounds, some of them key, in 24 minutes ... howdy to Michael and Shawn (Sean?), who introduced themselves to me during the game (that HokieCentral T-shirt brings 'em out of the woodwork).

USA Today Game Summary (includes stats)

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