A regulation college basketball game has 40 minutes. After 36 are played, conditioning and sheer defensive will, many times, determines the victor.
Such was Sunday afternoon at Crenshaw Gymnasium as Randolph-Macon’s depth and defensive prowess halted a Dickinson College comeback and the Jackets, despite a horrid half at the free throw line, knocked off the Red Devils 77-71 to go 2-0 in the 2013 R-MC Coaches Classic. The Jackets defeated Birmingham Southern Saturday 67-57.
Randolph-Macon head coach Nathan Davis credited his players for clamping down on the defensive end in the final four minutes, limiting the Red Devils to just five points.
“A lot of that stretch was our defense, but I also think the game wears on you,” Davis said. “We play a lot of guys, obviously, and that’s a reason why. We want to run every time and we’re going to get back (on defense). We always say a bad defensive team guards one action, a fair one two, a good one three. We want to be able to guard four.”
Andre Simon, who had his third double-double of the season with 20 points and 11 rebounds, picked up his fourth personal foul with 3:37 left. Two free throws for Dickinson made the score 71-68. Simon gracefully held his position inside on the next Red Devil possession, denying a basket and drawing a foul, hitting two free throws to extend the lead to five.
The next time Dickinson came down the court, it was Joe Hassell’s turn, rejecting a Red Devil bank shot attempt down low. Forty-five seconds later, Simon forced a traveling violation. These were the key plays down the stretch that ensured the win.
The Jackets depended on defensive success because life at the free throw line was a nightmare. After shooting 9-of-11 in the first half, the Jackets shot an anemic 7-of-22 in the second. Tournament MVP Marcus Badger missed two shots with a chance to push the lead to two possessions with 28 seconds left. The Red Devils had yet another opportunity to force overtime.
But the relentless pressure of the Jackets, running all 94 feet constantly, forced Dickinson into another wayward three-point try. Badger was fouled again and made one of two from the line for a four-point lead.
Badger noted the style of play the Jackets subscribe to also can wear on the home team.
“Yeah, we do [get tired], but I feel like that’s what defines our team. It all starts on defense,” Badger explained. “When we do well on defense, it feeds our offense.”
“For the most part, we guarded four actions,” Davis noted. “If you make them work every time to get a shot, you make them work every time to get back in transition, it will eventually get to you. The shots that were going in earlier may not go in.”
Badger had 15 points to go with 13 in the Birmingham Southern win. He was joined on the All-Tournament Team by junior inside force Akeem Holmes, continuing his breakout season while in a reserve role with 15 points and 10 rebounds Saturday, seven and four on Sunday.
Dickinson guard Adam Honig, who led all scorers Sunday with 27 points, also made the team, along with Zeb Richardson of Guilford and Ross Welch of Birmingham Southern.
Randolph-Macon flips the calendar with a 6-4 record and one more non-conference test, Saturday at Gettysburg. They return to, and stay in, ODAC action in their next home game Jan. 8 against Roanoke.
Badger knew immediately what priority one would be preparing for Saturday’s road test against the 4-6 Bullets.
“We’re definitely going to focus on our free throws after today’s performance,” Badger said. “We’ll do that, get some extra shots up and prepare for the next one.”