EMORY, Va.- The Randolph men's basketball team got a huge victory on the road on Wednesday night as they took down defending conference champion Emory and Henry 84-76. The victory was the first over the Wasps in four years.
The win, which is Randolph's third in row, improves the 'Cats overall record to 10-12 and 5-8 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. E&H, which came into tonight in third place in the conference and regionally ranked seventh in the South, drops to 15-7 overall and 8-5 in the league.
"We talked before the game about embracing a fight to come," said head coach Pete Hamilton. "Emory and Henry has some of the best offensive players in the league and we preached with the guys about staying the course when they hit tough ones, moving past a short scoring flurry, and battling like hell with the best offensive rebounder in the conference in Alec Wynn. I couldn't be more proud of how the guys bought into that message. It's one thing for our staff to put together a plan and say the words - it's an entirely different buy in for the guys to believe in it and each other for 40 minutes on the road in a tough environment."
The WildCats were led by CJ Loving's (Madison Heights, Va./Amherst County) career high 22 points off the bench in just his second ever double-digit scoring performance. He was a part of 29 total points from the WildCat bench. Sammy Hooper (Richmond, Va./Midlothian) added 19 points and nine rebounds. Brian Smith (Dumfries, Va./C.D. Hylton) chipped in 14 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds.
"What a game for CJ," said Hamilton. "I challenged CJ earlier in the week and he gave us an incredible lift just by being solid all night. He's extremely capable of providing that lift and I'm excited to see him grow in that role."
Randolph shot 30-of-58 (51.7%) from the floor on the evening. The WildCats also were 17-of-21(81%) from the charity stripe, which was its second-best output of the season
The WildCats started the game strong as they went ahead 14-3 with 13:06 remaining in the first half. Randolph continued to pour on the offense as its advantage grew to as much as 17 points, 26-9, with 9:34 showing on the clock and forced Emory and Henry to call a timeout.
The Wasps came out of the stoppage with a nine-point run that cut Randolph's lead to 28-18 with 7:30 left. A Smith layup put the 'Cats ahead 30-18 but a 7-0 Wasp run cut the E&H deficit to five points, 30-25, with under six minutes to play until the break. The WildCats added to their advantage and were able to restore it to double-digits at halftime as they led 45-35.
Despite E&H's comeback in the first half, Randolph looked unfazed as it started off the second half with a 10-0 run to blow the game open just over five and a half minutes in. The WildCats kept their large advantage intact for a majority of the rest of the second half. Following a layup by Elijah Ford (Chantilly, Va./Chantilly) at 4:40 to put the 'Cats ahead 75-59, the Wasps put together an 11-0 run to suddenly make their way back in and trail 75-70 with 2:30 left.
Randolph only attempted two shots for the remainder of the contest but was able to convert 9-of-10 free throws in the final 1:37. E&H would get as close as four points, 77-73, with 1:20 remaining but was 0-for-3 down the stretch and only hit a three-point shot with time expiring and the decision well in hand.
Ford picked up nine boards for the WildCats to go with eight points, three steals, and one block. Justin Dula (Taylorsville, N.C./Alexander Central) and Jerry Goodman (Suffolk, Va./Portsmouth Christian School) both contributed seven points apiece.
Randolph led in nearly every statistical category on the night. The WildCats controlled the glass with a 42-31 advantage. Second chance points were 17-11 in Randolph's favor. The WildCats led in the paint 38-34. The Cats also led in fast break points 20-6.
Another big conference matchup is ahead for Randolph this Saturday as it welcomes first place and #7 ranked Randolph-Macon to the RAD. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. The WildCats look to avenge a 92-47 setback to the Yellowjackets in Ashland back on January 19.