You’ve read the recap. Now, let’s go inside the numbers from Radford’s road win at Gardner-Webb Wednesday night.
- We can break down this game eight ways to Sunday — and might do just that — but the most important note starts with the preseason Big South Player of the Year, Radford’s Carlik Jones. I alluded in the gamer to the job done by Gardner-Webb of limiting the redshirt junior guard to just 11 points, but two things of note:
- First, there was probably some question — justifiably so — about how the Highlanders would respond if their main weapon were limited. Tonight, another veteran Radford guard stepped up and seized the night. Travis Fields, one-third of his club’s seasoned backcourt, led his team with 16 points. Fields has a reputation for hitting big shots — just ask his coach — and he did so again tonight.
- Second, sophomore guard Cle’Von Greene, who averaged just over four minutes per game as a freshman, again played limited minutes Wednesday. Those minutes paid off, though, with the Williamsburg, Virginia, native contributing 10 points in just 15 minutes, hitting 3-of-6 from the field and 4-of-4 from the line. Greene will play a big role this season, and an even bigger role next year, as Fields, Donald Hicks, and Devin Hutchinson will all graduate. Tonight showed glimpses of how big Greene could be next season.
- Next, let’s talk about Nate Johnson’s career night. Johnson scored 27 points against the Highlanders, eclipsing his prior best from November 24, 2018, when he posted 20 against UNC Wilmington in a Thanksgiving tournament in Asheville, North Carolina. Johnson has added much-needed stability to the Runnin’ Bulldog offense after returning from an injury suffered at Wofford, and the numbers bear this out. Johnson has scored 17, 19, and 27 in three Big South games, and he has clearly become a problem for Big South defenses. He was blanketed by the Highlanders on the final possession, leading to a short shot, but he was, by far, the star of the game Wednesday.
- At the other end of the spectrum is sophomore guard Jose Perez. Perez, the pick of many for Big South Player of the Year in the preseason voting, is really struggling from the floor. Perez is just 6-for-34 from the floor in Big South play, including a 3-for-17 night on Wednesday. He’s getting decent looks, but they’re just not falling. That said, it’s important to emphasize the other aspect of Perez as a player. As I noted Wednesday night:
Perez is an emotional player. He wears that on his sleeve. This is a statement of fact, not a negative. He had a pretty squared look just before the horn Wednesday, and it circled off. He looked almost heartbroken that the shot didn’t fall. When I saw him taking those shots, he was standing right in that same place from which that final shot occurred. Shot after shot. He caught the rebound, then repeated.
I asked coach Tim Craft about Perez and how he coached a player like him through a situation like this, and his response said a lot.
“There was a sequence there where Jose took a three on the left side — it was a fairly quick shot — and, as soon as it didn’t go, Jose put his hands to his head, and (assistant) Coach (Jeremy) Luther put his hands to his head. With somebody like that, who had such a great year last year, and is so emotional, how do you coach a kid through that kind of a stretch?”
CRAFT: “Man, it’s been all year just trying to coach him to just stay positive and try to make the next shot. I thought he played pretty (well) tonight, and then I looked at the numbers, and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ To me, I like the fact that he took eight threes, because he’s a really good shooter. If you guys would see him in practice here, he shoots it really (well). He’s gotta continue to take those shots. He can’t pass them up. We need him to make them, and he can’t make them if he doesn’t take them. We’ve just gotta keep encouraging him, and he’s certainly frustrated. He works at it really hard, and he wants to be a good player really (badly). He’s having a tough year.”
Two observations on that front:
- Jose absolutely does put in the work. I referenced that a bit ago. I should also note that many of those shots I saw him take after Wednesday game went down.
- That said, there seemed to be a few times where he would get a somewhat open look on the perimeter, and instead of going up for the shot as he might have last year, he pump-faked to try to draw the defender, then went toward the bucket for a much more contested look and/or one at a more unconventional angle. His confidence is clearly suffering, and I would think seeing a few of those perimeter shots go down would do wonders for his confidence and make some of those drives a bit higher-percentage looks.
There are some individual notes around several of our usual Hustle Stats, so let’s next go there.
- Points in the Paint: Radford 34, Gardner-Webb 20
- First, Gardner-Webb post players Ludovic Dufeal and Kareem Reid combined to go 6-for-6 from the floor and score 14 points, with each knocking down a three. That ability to both provide a physical presence down low (Dufeal had seven points and seven boards, while Reid had seven and four) and step away from the basket and knock down shots needs to continue to be developed. Reid is getting more run as he develops, and is starting to show why he was Gardner-Webb’s highest-ranked recruit in program history.
- Craft said after the game, “Our deal is (that) we want to get the ball to the paint first, or to the post first. I thought we did a decent job of that and got some great open looks from three tonight. (If) you make 13 (threes), usually, you’ve got a great chance to win, but it didn’t happen for us tonight.” The ability to play through the post and either go strong to the tin or kick to the wing and repost as necessary will help add dimensions to the Runnin’ Bulldog offense.
- On the Radford side, forward Devonnte Holland scored seven points and hauled in three boards in 25 minutes, but a lot of the Highlanders’ paint points came from the utilization of driving lanes, particularly in the second half. Jones knifed through traffic on several occasions, making his signature athletic plays and drawing contact. Radford also showed much more activity with cutters in the second half, collapsing the defenders to the ball in the paint and kicking to a cutter under the basket. Gardner-Webb, whether by design or by following their men, went “four-flat” (one defender on the ball and four “flat” to the baseline) on several occasions late in the second half, helping to neutralize Radford’s paint proclivity.
- Points off Turnovers: Radford 15, Gardner-Webb 10
- Gardner-Webb actually showed decent efficiency here, turning nine Highlander turnovers into 10 points. The Runnin’ Bulldogs committed 11 miscues, including seven Radford steals.
- Second-Chance Points: Gardner-Webb 15, Radford 12
- Conversely, Radford did quite well here. The Highlanders snared just seven offensive boards, but — by the numbers, at least — put back six of those seven for buckets. Gardner-Webb pulled in 14 offensive caroms, including five by Dufeal, but were able to tally just 15 points from them.
- Fast-Break Points: Radford 2, Gardner-Webb 2
- Bench Points: Radford 25, Gardner-Webb 10
- This number really stands out, and it starts with Greene. 10 points in 15 minutes make for a significant contribution off the pine. Hutchinson added eight of those points, including a couple of key shots in the early second-half Radford burst.
- Reid contributed seven of the 10 Runnin’ Bulldog bench points, with guards Lance Terry and Justin Jenkins logging just 11 combined minutes. Guard Christian Turner was the only other Gardner-Webb reserve to see any minutes, going scoreless in 11 minutes. With the dog days of Big South Conference play approaching, Gardner-Webb’s starters respectively playing 35, 25, 33, 34, and 35 minutes will be an item to watch. The ‘Dogs absolutely need more consistent, productive depth in order to meet the potential Craft knows they have.
- We mentioned Radford’s hot second half, and a couple of numbers centered around that are quite amazing.
- First half: .818 points per possession (33 trips), 36.4% scoring trips, 15.2% turnovers
- Second half: 1.290 points per possession (31 trips), 58.1% scoring trips, 12.9% turnovers
- Radford’s possessions were, on average, two seconds shorter in the second half, but the offensive distribution was hard to ignore; of the 10 Highlanders who played in their 40-point second half, eight hit at least one basket
- Finally, the free throw line has been a huge problem around the league this year (Winthrop and High Point combined to go 28-for-57 from the line in a league game Wednesday night, for example), but Gardner-Webb’s 5-for-11 loomed large. The Runnin’ Bulldogs were 0-for-3 from the stripe in the first half alone, and how significant those points would have been at the end of regulation.
RADFORD 67, GARDNER-WEBB 64
RADFORD (7-7, 2-0 BIG SOUTH): Butts 2-4 0-0 5, Holland 3-7 1-1 7, Jones 5-11 1-1 11, Hicks 1-4 0-0 3, Fields 5-13 4-6 16, Hutchinson 3-3 0-0 8, Greene 3-6 4-4 10, Walker 1-1 0-0 2, Djonkam 0-1 0-0 0, Eke 2-2 1-6 5. Totals 25-52 11-18 67.
GARDNER-WEBB (5-10, 1-2 BIG SOUTH): Jamison 1-7 2-2 4, Dufeal 3-3 0-0 7, Cornwall 3-9 2-3 9, Perez 3-17 0-3 7, Johnson 9-19 1-1 27, Terry 1-3 0-0 3, Jenkins 0-0 0-0 0, Turner 0-0 0-0 0, Reid 3-3 0-2 7. Totals 23-61 5-11 64.
Halftime — Gardner-Webb 33-27. 3-Point Goals—Gardner-Webb 13-34 (Jamison 0-2, Dufeal 1-1, Cornwall 1-5, Perez 1-8, Johnson 8-14, Terry 1-3, Reid 1-1), Radford 6-17 (Butts 1-3, Hicks 1-4, Fields 2-6, Hutchinson 2-2, Greene 0-2). Fouled Out —NA. Rebounds — Gardner-Webb 37 (Jamison/Dufeal 7), Radford 35 (Eke 7). Assists —Gardner-Webb 16 (Perez 5), Radford 13 (Jones 6). Total Fouls — Gardner-Webb 14, Radford 10. Technical — NA. A —1459.