USC Upstate forward Ahmir Langlais goes up for a shot Saturday against Radford. Langlais scored eight in the game. (Photo: USC Upstate Athletics)
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Not even 48 hours had elapsed between the time Radford had what was arguably its biggest high of the season. The Highlanders knocked off defending champion Longwood on their home floor before a national ESPN audience, then had to get on a bus and travel several hours.
For several minutes in the second half, it looked as if the exhilaration, the travel -- all of it -- might come back to bite Radford. Bryan Antoine wouldn't let that happen, though.
With his Highlanders tied with Upstate at 52 on the final possession, Josiah Jeffers dribbled away the final seconds. Antoine appeared from the left side, caught a pass from Jeffers, and squared toward the basket. The junior from Tinton Falls, N.J., released a shot from nearly 30 feet away. The shot splashed home, and -- maybe out of happiness, maybe out of relief -- Radford celebrated.
The shot gave Radford a 55-52 win over Upstate in an absolute battle.
Antoine knew the moment, knew the time, and made a clear decision -- right?
"The funny thing is, I didn't actually see the clock," Antoine said after the game. "I knew as soon as I caught the ball, it was close to at least five seconds, so I'd have to shoot it. As soon as I shot it, I checked again, and there were 2.5 seconds left. I'm just happy I made it."
Upstate coach Dave Dickerson used two of his team's timeouts in preparation for the play, following an Ahmir Langlais bucket that tied the contest at 52 with 33 seconds remaining.
"I'm proud of my team. We fought. We played hard. We played connected. We didn't give in," Dickerson said. "I'm proud of them. We just needed the last possession. Radford is a good team. (Radford coach Darris Nichols) has done an unbelievable job with this program. (Antoine) made a big-time play. You've gotta take your hat off to them."
The shot brought to an end a back-and-forth battle that was reminiscent of the first matchup between the two. Upstate handed Radford one of its two conference losses in the Dedmon Center on January 4th, taking a 65-60 decision. The game was disrupted by stoppages due to fouls, which Nichols noted afterwards.
"I thought that we started playing too soft offensively because of the whistle. I thought it was on both sides," Nichols said. "I thought we were getting to the rim and missing too many rim shots. They had us playing kind of timid offensively. I wanted our guys to back up and show their hands defensively."
Dickerson agreed with the sentiment on the game's flow.
"The first half kind of killed the momentum of both teams," Dickerson said. "There were so many fouls called. They were fouls. The officials did a good job. That kind of took the life out of the gym a little bit." 23 combined fouls were assessed in the period.
The foul trouble led to seven Highlanders logging 15 or more minutes during the game, though none fouled out.
"I'm just proud that our guys don't look at it selfishly when other guys step up. They're genuinely happy," Nichols said.
Upstate also had some players step up. Langlais was one of those players, contributing 16 minutes and hitting 4-of-7 shots to tally eight points to go along with his six boards. The redshirt junior from Atlanta played key minutes with Upstate's post players battling fouls.
"Ahmir scores the ball for us. He scores the ball easily sometimes," Dickerson said. "Now he's working on different moves in the post, because they're taking his right shoulder away. He did a good job tonight of just staying with it and staying with the ball. He got a big offensive rebound and putback (on Upstate's final possession)."
Turnovers also helped to tell the story of the contest. Radford induced 19 Upstate miscues, which led to 18 Highlander points. Radford committed 17 turnovers, leading to 15 Spartan points.
"Some of them were just us doing crazy stuff. Some of it was them," Nichols said. "They're a good team. They're a good defensive team. They play really well at home. For us to come out of here with an ugly win is special."
Dickerson cited the miscues as a key factor in the game.
"We gave ourselves a chance to win, but we probably should have won the game by seven points. We had 19 turnovers," Dickerson said. "We had 10 in the second half. It's hard to win games against good teams when you turn the ball over."
Antoine led the way for Radford and all scorers, tallying 21 on 6-of-10 shooting. Five of Antoine's seven threes found the mark, along with all four of his free throw tries. Justin Archer was Radford's second double-digit scorer, finishing with 11 points and four boards in 18-plus minutes.
The Highlanders shot 37 percent (17-of-46) o the game, with six of their 15 threes (40 percent) connecting. Radford hit 15 of its 21 free throw attempts.
Mysta Goodloe paced the Spartans with 12 points on 3-of-5 shooting, hitting 2-of-3 from distance. All four of Goodloe's free throw attempts were true. Jordan Gainey added 10, despite battling to a 4-for-16 finish owing largely to Radford's defensive effort. Upstate shot 40.8 percent (20-for-49), but hit just 5-of-17 (29.4 percent) from the perimeter. The Spartans finished 7-for-12 from the line.
Both sides resume Big South play Wednesday night. Radford (14-9, 8-2 Big South) travels to Clinton, S.C., to battle Presbyterian in the Templeton Center. Upstate (9-14, 4-6) makes the trek to Buies Creek, N.C., to face off with Campbell in Gore Arena. Tip times are set for 7:00 (Eastern) for both contests. Streaming will be available via ESPN+.