ROCK HILL, S.C. – The seeding in Friday afternoon’s quarterfinal suggested that sixth-seeded Radford’s 56-52 victory over third-seeded Liberty was an upset.  Don’t tell that to the Highlanders, though.

“I think we should have [beaten] Liberty both games (a 71-64 Liberty overtime victory and a 57-54 final on an A.C. Reid buzzer-beating three) in the regular season, so they escaped two games in the regular season,” said Radford forward Ed Polite, Jr.  “We knew that the same plan to beat them during the regular season would work coming into the [tournament], so we just executed it.  It turned out in our favor.”


Radford (14-17) knocked down four triples in the first 13 minutes of game action, holding the Flames in single digits until a Myo Baxter-Bell jumper at the 6:36 mark knifed the Highlander advantage to 22-11.  Liberty (19-13) began to get its bearings a bit from that point, focusing on getting its post players involved in the offense.  A Ryan Kemrite trey chopped the Radford lead to 22-16, bringing Liberty as close as it would draw in the opening twenty.

The Flames found themselves down just eight at the half, despite an opening period in which Radford shot 60 percent (12-for-20) to Liberty’s 30 percent (9-for-30).

“I thought we were getting great looks (in the first half),” said Liberty coach Ritchie McKay.  “We’ll keep shooting them when we’re getting great looks.  They have that freedom.  I want to be a program that has the aggressive mindset on the offensive end, not the one that is afraid to make a mistake.”


Radford stretched its lead as far as 10 at the 12-minute mark, as a Caleb Tanner conversion from distance made the score 42-32.  A 9-0 Liberty run cut the Highlander lead to one, before a four-minute scoreless stretch by both teams.  A John Dawson three gave Liberty its only lead of the game at the 1:50 mark, before the Highlanders withstood the Flames’ final charge to emerge victorious.

“When they made their run in the second half, we maintained our poise.  I looked at everybody’s faces, and everybody was composed,” said Radford coach Mike Jones.  “We were able to make just enough plays at the end.  We’ve had three games like that this year with Liberty, and this time, we were fortunate enough to come out on the other end.”

Baxter-Bell led Liberty with 18 points, adding four boards.  Guard Lovell Cabbil tallied 12 for the Flames.  Liberty held the Highlanders to 35 percent shooting in the second half, and just 1-for-8 from three-point range (“We defended better,” said McKay) in the final twenty after a 5-for-8 effort in the opening half.

Polite, Jr. led three Highlanders in double figures, finishing alongside guard Justin Cousin with 12 apiece.  Guard Christian Bradford added 11, including six free throws in the final 36 seconds to help seal the Highlander victory.

Radford advances to face seventh-seeded Campbell in tomorrow’s semifinals at the Winthrop Coliseum.  This will be the first Big South semifinal to match a sixth and seventh seed since 2012.  Seventh-seeded VMI knocked off sixth-seeded Winthrop, 75-55, that year.

#6 RADFORD 56, #3 LIBERTY 52

RADFORD (14-17): Bradford 2-5 6-6 11, Hicks 1-6 2-3 4, Cousin 5-10 0-0 13, Polite, Jr. 5-10 2-4 12, Phillips 0-1 2-2 2, Tanner 3-4 0-0 9, Christy 1-2 0-0 2, Bolstad 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 19-40 12-15 56.

LIBERTY (19-13): Baxter-Bell 8-14 2-3 18, Cabbil 5-11 0-0 12, Kemrite 1-8 0-0 3, Pacheco-Ortiz 2-8 1-2 5, Dawson 3-9 0-0 9, Reid 0-3 0-0 0, Gardner 1-4 0-0 3, Chen 0-0 0-0 0, E. Talbert 0-0 2-2 2, J. Talbert 0-0 0-0 0, Hiepler 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-56 5-7 52.

Halftime — Radford 29-21. 3-Point Goals—Radford 6-16 (Bradford 1-1, Hicks 0-3, Cousin 2-7, Tanner 3-4, Christy 0-1), Liberty 7-24 (Baxter-Bell 0-1, Cabbil 2-5, Kemrite 1-5, Pacheco-Ortiz 0-3, Dawson 3-6, Reid 0-3, Gardner 1-1). Fouled Out — Kemrite (LU). Rebounds — Radford 32 (Bradford/Phillips 7), Liberty 26 (Cabbil/Dawson 5). Assists — Radford 9 (Bradford 5), Liberty 6 (Cabbil 3). Total Fouls — Liberty 19, Radford 12. Technical — None. A — 729.

Points in the Paint — Radford 22, Liberty 16. Points off Turnovers —Liberty 10, Radford 4. Second-Chance Points — Liberty 6, Radford 1. Fast Break Points — NA. Bench Points — Radford 15, Liberty 5.