When their offense is working with precision, the Randolph-Macon men’s basketball team reminds you of the eye of a hurricane. They are calm, cool, and collective on the inside, but furious and dangerous to their opponents just around the fringes.
Thinking two passes ahead, the Jackets moved the ball sharply, found the open man, pounded the rock inside, and the Catholic University Cardinals couldn’t weather the storm, as Randolph-Macon improved to 4-3 Sunday with an 80-63 victory.
“We want to attack the lane, whether it’s throwing the ball in to Joe (Hassell), Andre (Simon) and Akeem (Holmes) or driving it. We always want to make sure we’re attacking the lane,” head coach Nathan Davis said.
It was the bread and butter of the Jackets’ success Sunday, both in setting the pace of the contest and playing to Randolph-Macon’s strengths. And even when Hassell went to the bench with two quick fouls just nine and a half minutes in, the Jackets’ depth took over.
Holmes played 18 minutes and had 12 rebounds to go with nine points and two blocks, showing he is a different, more mature player than he was last season.
“[Holmes] is more confident in what he’s doing,” Davis explained. “He’s playing with the physicality that he needs to play with. He’s typically the biggest, most athletic guy in the gym and he needs to keep allowing that to show around the basket.”
In hindsight, the decisive stretch came after a timeout with the Jackets leading by six, 27-21, with 6:39 left in the first half. Randolph-Macon went on a 15-8 run to close out the half, led by Simon and Holmes inside, and good dribble penetration by Marcus Badger, Lamont Moore, and Trent Walker, to take a 42-29 lead to intermission.
Simon scored 13 of his game-high 22 points in the opening stanza. Moore finished with 13 points while Connor Sullivan had 12.
Despite Hassell and Sullivan both picking up their third personal fouls in the first two and a half minutes of the second half, the Jackets continued to extend their lead, wearing down the Cardinals’ inside presence defensively. In less than six minutes, the lead was stretched to 19, and Catholic never mounted a comeback.
Ten players logged at least 11 minutes of playing time as the Jackets continue to build a depth that future opponents will find daunting. Davis pointed out that one player, Jamie Wilson, a freshman guard from West Point, who played two minutes Sunday, will have much to offer in the future.
“We’ve got Wilson not getting a lot of time right now, but I think he’s going to be an all-league player. Just happens that he has Marcus, Connor, Trent, those guys playing in front of him,” Davis said.
Add in the impending return of injured senior guard Jamie Robinson, likely after the New Year, and the Jackets’ rotation could go 11 or 12 deep.
The loaded roster was one reason why Randolph-Macon was picked to win the ODAC and was preseason ranked a Top 10 team nationally, according to The Sporting News. Having now seemingly weathered a slow start, albeit against a rugged schedule, for the second straight year, the Jackets are poised to take the ODAC by storm come January.
First, though, they host their own holiday tournament, The R-MC Coaches Classic, Dec. 28 and 29. The Jackets also faced fourth-ranked Cabrini on the road Wednesday in a game played after press deadline.
“We’ve played, without question, the most challenging schedule in our league,” Davis pointed out. “We’ve gotten better; I wish we had a few of those games back. You don’t want three losses at this point, but, in all of those games, though we didn’t play particularly well, we had the ball each time with a possession to win the game. We just weren’t able to get it done.”
If they continue to improve from Sunday’s performance against the Cardinals, they’ll do a much better job getting it done from here on out.
Chris Hamilton poured in 23 points in just 16 minutes off the bench, and Randolph-Macon was tied with the fourth ranked team in the nation in Division III, Cabrini, with just 1:42 to go.
But a series of missed opportunities late and key free throw shooting by the Cavaliers allowed Cabrini to escape their home floor in Radnor, Pa. with a 98-91 win over the Yellow Jackets Wednesday evening.
Aaron Walton-Moss led all scorers with 40 points for the 9-0 Cavaliers, a career high for a player widely regarded as one of the best in the nation in Division III basketball. Marcus Badger added 18 for the Yellow Jackets (4-4), while Connor Sullivan had 12.
The Cavaliers successfully neutralized the inside game of Randolph-Macon, holding Andre Simon, Joe Hassell and Akeem Holmes to a combined 22 points, and out-rebounding the Jackets 41-34.