RADFORD, VA. – The Radford women’s basketball program used an impressive second half to blow past UNC Asheville 69-42 Thursday afternoon in their Big South Opener. Today’s victory marked the sixth time in head coach Mike McGuire‘s career that he’s opened conference play with a win.
Radford and UNC Asheville opened the game with some cold shooting coming out of the holiday break. Both teams played stout defense, but open looks just weren’t falling early as Radford would cling on to a lead throughout the opening minutes.
Vanessa Blake got the scoring started in her big day with a basket down low dished out by Ashlyn Traylor. A three-pointer by Olivia Wagner also set the tone for her career day as she nailed a three for the 5-0 lead. The Bulldogs wouldn’t get their first basket until four and a half minutes into the game, but Radford immediately responded to stay up 7-2.
A late three-pointer pulled UNC Asheville closer before the break as Radford led 10-8 headed into the second quarter. The new quarter didn’t heat up either offense as both teams battled for an advantage in any direction. A three-pointer just past the six-minute mark put the Bulldogs briefly in front before a 6-0 run led by Rachel LaLonde netting four-straight points pulled Radford back out front.
Another late three pointer by the Bulldogs ensured the game stayed close at 24-23 headed into halftime. But from then on it would be the Highlanders who took complete control in the second half. After shooting just 31% in the first half, Radford kicked it into high gear and shot 59% over the final 20 minutes.
The Highlanders were about as good as it gets making nine of their 14 shots in the third quarter. Blake played a big part in that as her back-to-back and-ones paved the way to a 38-28 lead to create some real space. Layups by Traylor and Ashley Panem as well as a three by Tatiana Beaumont ensured a large Radford lead and a 14-0 run to end the third quarter.
Leading 45-28 with ten minutes to go, Radford didn’t let up. Panem and Traylor traded three-pointers that sealed a 28-5 run by Radford and a 59-33 lead. Wagner and Blake combined to scored 10 more points in the fourth quarter to seal the winning effort in an eventual 69-42 final.
Inside the box score, Wagner and Blake led the scoring efforts with 15 and 14 points respectively. Traylor finished the day with another great stat line of nine points, six rebounds and seven assists. LaLonde finished with another double-digit rebounding effort with 11 on the day while Carmen Williams also pulled down seven rebounds.
CAREER-BEST BY WAGNER
Wagner set a new career-high in points today with 15. At times Wagner paced the offense and provided some vital baskets early to keep the lead intact. The freshman also dished out three assists on the day to go with four rebounds and a pair of steals. Wagner had a good road trip despite some limited play time last week before the holiday break and has heated up just in time for Big South competition.
THREE FRESHMEN STARTERS PLAY BIG
With Maci Rhoades getting her first career start today, the Highlanders starting five featured three freshmen and all three played big parts in today’s win. Traylor overcame a cold start to still light up the box score and put up more near-triple-double numbers. Wagner’s career-high in points led all scorers in the game. And finally Rhoades pulled down four rebounds while collecting an assist, steal and making the only shot she took for the day.
BEST DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCE SINCE…
Radford put together its best defensive performance against a Division I opponent in over two seasons today by holding UNC Asheville to just 42 points. The last time Radford held an opponent to less than 45 points was defeating Hampton on February 16th, 2020, also inside the Dedmon Center. While the Bulldogs were able to collect eight three-pointers today, the team overall shot just 26% from the floor. Radford’s defense also forced a season-high 23 turnovers.
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