BLACKSBURG, Va. — The Radford Highlanders traveled across Montgomery County to Blacksburg and beat the Virginia Tech Hokies for the first time since 1999.
Nearly 15 years to the day since the Highlanders (5-3) last won in Cassell Coliseum, coach Mike Jones’ veteran team delivered an 8-0 run in the final 1:37 to seal a 68-66 win over the Hokies on Sunday.
Guard Rashun Davis nailed a 3-pointer with 39.7 seconds remaining to cut Tech’s lead to 66-65. On the ensuing possession, guard Devin Wilson turned the ball over at mid-court which led to a breakaway layup for Radford guard RJ Price.
The Hokies had one more shot with 8.4 seconds remaining, but guard Justin Bibb’s 3-pointer came up short and time ran out while both teams scrambled for a loose ball on the floor. It was the first time in program history that the Highlanders defeated a program from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Price led all scorers with a season-high 25 points. Center Brandon Holcomb scored 10 of his career-high 14 points in the second half and collected seven rebounds.
Price credited his teammates after the game with keeping him confident after a slow start to the season.
“I was in a slump for the first few games,” Price said. “I was starting to pass up shots or force them or be frustrated, and my teammates just kept telling me to shoot the ball. I think them giving me confidence and believing in me no matter what helps.”
Jones acknowledged the significance of Virginia Tech being his program’s first-ever ACC win.
“I thought our effort was extraordinary for 40 minutes,” said Jones. “It’s big in this area because it’s the New River Valley, and you hear a lot about Virginia Tech. If you have 90 percent about Tech you had 10 percent. For one day for 40 minutes, you get to hear about Radford for a little bit. That’s nice for our University and our community, and hopefully it builds a lot of pride in our University.”
Despite trailing by 11 early in the second half, Virgina Tech (4-4) clawed all the way back when guard Adam Smith drilled a deep 3-pointer with 6:19 to give the Hokies a 57-55 lead. It was Tech’s first lead since 17:07 in the first half.
Smith’s bucket was part of a 16-5 run the Hokies used to take a late lead, only to see it evaporate in the final 90 seconds. Smith’s 12 points led the Hokies. Wilson contributed 11 points and six assists.
Head coach Buzz Williams said the Hokies’ effort level was not good compared to Radford.
“I thought they played harder than we did,” Williams said. “I thought they competed way harder than we did. They got nearly every 50-50 ball, and I thought they deserved the right to win.”
The Hokies looked like they might take control of the game immediately, hitting consecutive buckets and playing stifling defense in the early possessions. The Highlanders came alive, however, and took an early lead of their own.
Sparked by Price, Radford lit off on a 16-4 run, which included a 13-0 burst in a span of 2:43. Price did his damage from long range, hitting four 3-pointers to ignite Highlanders fans in attendance.
Price led all scorers at the half with 14 points. Junior guard YaYa Anderson contributed nine points and finished 3-for-3 from long range.
Despite entering the game ranked last in the Big South in field goal percentage, the Highlanders were on fire in the first half. The Highlanders shot 55.6 percent from the floor and 58.3 percent from three-point range.
When asked why the Highlanders were so successful shooting the ball, Williams didn’t pull any punches about his team’s defensive performance.
“We didn’t guard them,” Williams said. “That would be part of it. If they make one of every two, you’re probably not very good defensively.”
Typical of a cross-county matchup, the game got a bit chippy in the first half. After blocking a dunk attempt from center Joey Van Zegeren, forward Jalen Carethers received a technical foul for taunting.
Guard Malik Mueller led the Hokies in scoring at intermission with eight points. Van Zegeren, who continues to come off the bench,
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