LYNCHBURG, Va.- It took an extra session but in the end, Randolph men's basketball came out on top as they knocked off Eastern Mennonite 79-71 on Saturday afternoon at the RAD Center. The victory, the WildCats' second in the last three games, lifts Randolph to 6-17 overall and 3-11 in the ODAC. The Royals drop to 9-13 and 4-10 in the conference.
Ryan Fields (Edgewood, Md./Loyola Blakefield) and Sammy Hooper (Richmond, Va./Midlothian) accounted for 63% of the WildCats' offensive output with 29 and 21 points, respectively. For Fields, it was a season-best as it topped his 28-point output against Emory and Henry on January 24.
Randolph led 5-2 early on in the first half until the Royals took over the lead, 6-5, at 14:39. A Nick Goble (Charlotte, N.C./Myers Park) layup 24 seconds later restored the advantage back the WildCats. EMU stole the lead back and went ahead 18-15 at 10:39 but back-to-back jumpers from Fields and Elijah Ford (Chantilly, Va./Chantilly) gave the lead back to the 'Cats. EMU pulled ahead thanks to a 14-4 run for its biggest lead of the game, 32-25, with 3:09 left in the half. Randolph drew even with an 11-4 run, ending with a Hooper three-point basket, with 42 ticks left and the teams went into the locker room tied at 36-all.
Eastern Mennonite started the second half strong with a 7-0 run to go up 43-36. Randolph cut their deficit to three points, 43-40, but EMU added to their lead with a 13-0 run and break away to a 55-40 lead with just over 11 minutes remaining in regulation.
Randolph's deficit stood at 13 points at 62-49 with 7:07 left on the game clock. A pair of free throws from Fields and Hooper cut it to nine. The Royals edged ahead 64-53 after two foul shots from DJ Hill at 5:31. A quick 7-0 WildCat run put Randolph to within four points of tying. Two more free throws by EMU staked the visitors to a 66-60 advantage with three minutes left. Fields cut it in half with a trey with two minutes left and hit another with a little under a minute to go to knot the contest at 66-66. The score would stay that way as EMU could not get a final shot off before the horn sounded as the game headed to overtime.
It was all WildCats in the extra period as they outscored the Royals 13-5. Eastern Mennonite took a one-point lead on the first throw by Isaiah Harris-Winn at 4:42. The 'Cats scored six straight points to take a lead it would not relinquish.
Also contributing for Randolph on the afternoon was Brian Smith (Dumfries, Va./C.D. Hylton) who scored nine points and dished out a season-high eight assists while coming down with four rebounds and two steals. Goble added six points and grabbed a team and season-best 10 rebounds. Colton Lee (Raleigh, N.C./North Raleigh Christian Academy) also chipped in six points.
"I'm proud of our guys because when we were down 15, we had a lot of reasons to stop and we didn't," said head coach Pete Hamilton after the game. "In the first half of the season, this game would have gone a different way. I think we found a good rhythm with Ryan and Sammy.
Randolph edged out EMU in shooting with a 44.6-42.1% advantage. Rebounds did favor EMU 39-37. The WildCats committed a season-low eight turnovers on the afternoon. It did take advantage of 15 EMU turnovers with 15 points scored off them.
"The low turnovers is a testament to our focus and our ability to learn and move forward," remarked Hamilton. "We are showing a much better focus on that. It makes a huge difference especially when you are down 15, you can't afford to turn the ball over. Our guys are doing more focused job at ball security."
The WildCats go on the road Wednesday to face Roanoke. It will be a rematch of the game on December 6 that the Maroons claimed 72-43 at the RAD. Game time is set for 7:00 p.m.
January 31 and into February we had a mindset of 'Lets have a new season and forget about the bad situations we put ourselves in or the bad situations we have been in an just move forward," stated Hamilton. "We haven't won every game but we have played our best basketball during this stretch. Looking foward, we are still excited abnd positive about where we could go."