Chris Gaynor Becomes Big South's Career Steals Leader
RADFORD 62, UNC ASHEVILLE 53
Radford men’s basketball held UNC Asheville to 13.9 percent shooting in the second half to beat the second-place Bulldogs 62-53 in a Wednesday night Big South Conference game at the Dedmon Center. The Bulldogs hit just 5-of-36 from the field under Radford’s stifling second half defense. They were 0-16 from beyond the arc in the second half as well. UNCA had shot 55.6 percent from the field in the first half and 60 percent from beyond the arc.
RU junior Eric Hall (Greensboro, N.C.) took game high rebounding honors, securing 16 caroms, the most boards by a single player since former Highlander Chris Oliver (Kernersville, N.C.) hauled in 19 last year versus Campbell. His classmate, Martell McDuffy (Laurel, Md.), who had missed two of the last three games with an ankle injury, scored 13 points and grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds to tally a double-double in his return. Radford surpassed its 2006-07 overall (8) and Conference (3) win totals, improving to 9-17 overall and 4-7 in the Big South. The Highlanders also snapped a five-game skid versus UNCA. Asheville fell to 18-8 overall and 7-4 in league play.
Back-to-back dunks by Hall and a pair of free throws from junior Kenny Thomas (Richmond, Va.) put RU up six early in the first half, but UNCA battled back and eventually took the lead on a lay-up by Garrett Moles with 2:11 remaining in the half. A 3-pointer by K.J. Garland extended that lead to four, which is where it ended up at the intermission. Four quick points to open the second half tied the game and the teams traded baskets for the first 10 minutes of the second half. After a free throw by Vincent James put UNCA up one, McDuffy sunk a free throw and then hit a jumper, giving RU the lead back, the last time it would change hands. McDuffy’s three points started a 7-0 RU run. Asheville cut the six point lead to three on a free throws from James and Reid Augst, but that was as close as the Bulldogs managed down the stretch.
Thomas led the Highlanders with 15 points. Amir Johnson and McDuffy each dished out four assists for Radford. Freshman Nick McFarlin (Davenport, Iowa) equaled his career high of four points. Garland and James each finished with 16 points for UNCA and Augst had a team-high seven rebounds and three steals. The Highlanders close out their regular season schedule Saturday with a regionally televised game against VMI on MASN at 4:00pm. Asheville hosts Charleston Southern Saturday afternoon at 4:30pm.
WINTHROP 80, VMI 70
Michael Jenkins scored 17 points to lead five Winthrop players in double figures and the defense held the nation's top scoring team 23 points below its average as the Eagles defeated VMI 80-70 Wednesday night. The win improves Winthrop's Big South Conference League-leading record 9-3 and 18-9 overall while VMI falls to 5-6 in Conference play and 13-12 overall. T he win, coupled with UNC Asheville's loss at Radford, gives the Eagles a one-and-a-half game lead over the second place Bulldogs. The win also assured Winthrop of hosting a quarterfinal game in the Big South tournament on March 4.
The game marked the first time this season that Winthrop has placed five players in double figures. Joining Jenkins in double digits was Chris Gaynor with 15, Taj McCullough, 13, Antwon Harris, 12, and Byron Faison, 11. In addition to his 15 points, Gaynor tied McCullough with a team high seven rebounds and collected eight steals. Gaynor recorded eight steals and in the process broke the Big South Conference career steals record of 243, set by Campbell's Brad Childress. Gaynor sits on top with 246 career steals. The team scoring effort by Winthrop overshadowed a combined 51 points from Reggie Williams and Chavis Holmes. Williams, the nation's second-leading scorer reached his season average with 27 points, including 19 in the second half, while Holmes scored 24. Williams also grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
Winthrop led 33-28 at halftime despite committing 13 first half turnovers. The Eagles finished with a season-high 24 turnovers, but a nine-rebound average along with a defense that forced the Keydets into 20 turnovers of their own and 37 percent shooting (23-62) proved too much for VMI to overcome. The Eagles shot 54 percent for the game (29-53) and outrebounded the Keydets 41-32. VMI trailed by two at 39-37 following a 3-pointer by Holmes. The Eagles then took control of the game open with a 12-0 run that put them up 49-37 with 11:41 left in the game. McCullough started the run with a driving layup and Harris ended it with a dunk. Winthrop's largest lead was 17 at 76-59 with 1:06 remaining.
In addition to Gaynor's accomplishment, Williams moved past Gay Elmore (1983-87) for the top spot on the VMI career scoring list. Now with 2,430 points, Williams surpassed Elmore’s 2,423 points.
The Eagles will return home on Friday night to host Davidson in a nationally televised game as part of the ESPN BracketBusters. Tipoff for the game is set for 7:03 and the game will be carried on ESPN2. VMI returns to the road for the next two games and will face Radford Saturday at 4:00 p.m. The game will be televised on MASN.