Kenyon Giles tallied 13 in 25 minutes off the bench in Radford's win at Winthrop Wednesday. (Photo: Radford Athletics)
ROCK HILL, S.C. -- The time since January 20, 2020, has been rough on all of us, for a number of reasons. It's been especially rough for the Radford Highlanders within the confines of Winthrop Coliseum.
Radford came into Wednesday's game having dropped four of its last five in the building and three straight in the nearly two years since that date. Two of those decisions were by 10 points or greater.
Winthrop, for its part, has established itself as a first-half team of late. The Eagles have shot 66 percent in the first half from the field and 59 percent from three in their last two games, buoyed by a wild 79 percent effort -- 75 percent from three -- in a 10-point victory over Presbyterian a week prior.
Knowing that, the Highlanders had to have felt good about going to the locker room tied at 31 after 20 minutes Wednesday. If the Highlanders could have seen the box score from the second half, that confidence would have been even higher.
Radford limited Winthrop to just six second-half buckets -- on 16 tries -- while compelling nine turnovers in the stanza on the way to a 66-52 victory before an announced crowd of 1,014 at Winthrop Coliseum.
Highlander coach Darris Nichols had a -- well, let's call it different -- assessment of at least part of what keyed the second-half effort.
"I think sometimes, too, when your offense is in front of your bench, teams tend to score a little more," Nichols said. "You can yell out and communicate. I thought the bench did a good job."
Radford (9-9, 3-2 Big South) enjoyed a reasonable amount of success from the floor as it played nearer to its bench in the period. The Highlanders sank better than 48 percent of their tries, picking and choosing when to hoist threes -- Radford tried just five triples and hit three -- as part of their effort. Nichols' club also sliced into what was at one point a massive advantage at the foul line. Winthrop enjoyed a 17-3 differential in free throws before Radford drew closer.
Winthrop (7-11, 2-3) again struggled to find its way in the closing 20. The Eagles shot just 37.5 percent (6-for-16) in the period, closing the game at 37 percent (17-for-46) on the night. The home side also shot 7-for-26 (26.9 percent) from beyond the arc, marking the fourth time in the last six contests that Winthrop has turned in a sub-30 percent mark from distance.
Winthrop coach Mark Prosser was frank in his assessment of the game.
"I think we're not very good right now, which is on me and us to get them better prepared," Prosser said. "It's happened a couple times now where things have not come easily in the second half. We haven't been the same version of ourselves in the second half that we were in the first half. It happened again tonight.
"They did a nice job. They played hard and were well-prepared. We just didn't make the proper adjustments, and that's on me. I apologize to the fans that came, because it was a very good crowd tonight. We'll get it fixed, and we've gotta do it in a hurry."
A visibly bothered Prosser recapped the events of the second half from the perspective of both his side and that of the visitors.
"There was a lot of what happened tonight that I thought that came down to a lot of toughness plays," Prosser said. "In the second half, I thought they were more difficult to play against than we were. It translates into both sides of the floor. They ran their stuff, they got the shots that they wanted, and they went down. We didn't do that enough. I didn't put our kids in positions enough to be successful. We'll look at it and try to be better Saturday afternoon."
The clash of styles clearly favored the Highlanders in the closing stanza. The visitors dictated the tempo and turned in an excruciating -- for Winthrop faithful, anyway -- 23 seconds per possession, which ground the fast-paced, transition-preferring Eagles to a halt.
"For a team that wants to play fast, it can get frustrating," Prosser said. "It was a function of us going to the offensive glass a little bit and trying to get more shots. 16 (shots in the second half) is not enough. We certainly didn't make enough. We had nine turnovers in the second half, as opposed to the four we had in the first half. We've got to look at it and make the proper changes. It's uncomfortable to lose at home in this program."
The Highlanders enjoyed several key advantages in the second half. Radford turned in 14 points in the paint to Winthrop's three, while the the second-chance points favored the Highlanders at an 18-6 total. The visitors outrebounded Winthrop, 18-10, in the period and turned Winthrop's nine miscues into eight points.
Radford guard Bryan Antoine paced the Highlanders with 16 points, sinking 6-of-11 tries before leaving the game due to an injury. Antoine limped off the court with assistance following the game, but no immediate information was available regarding the extent of the injury. DaQuan Smith added 14, despite being held scoreless in the second half and attempting just two shots. Freshman guard Kenyon Giles contributed 13 in 25 minutes off the bench, while forward Justin Archer tallied 12. Radford shot 50 percent (26-of-52) on the night.
Forward Kelton Talford was Winthrop's lone double-figure scorer. The Great Falls, S.C., native logged 15 points on 4-for-8 shooting. Talford converted just 7-of-14 free throws on the evening. Just two other Eagles attempted free throws. Cory Hightower hit 2-of-3, while Sin'Cere McMahon put home both attempts from the charity stripe. Winthrop shot below 68 percent from the line for the third time in four contests and below 39 percent from the floor for the third time in the last six.
Both sides return to conference play Saturday afternoon at 2:00 (Eastern). Radford hosts red-hot Charleston Southern in the Dedmon Center in Radford, Va., while Winthrop travels to Buies Creek, N.C., to do battle with Campbell in Gore Arena. Both games will be streamed via ESPN+.