Good teams, in any sport, are able to impose their will upon the opponent, forcing them to play their preferred style.
Better teams are ones that play the preferred style of their opponent, and still defeat them.
The Randolph Wildcats, third in the nation in Division III in scoring defense, allowing just 58.6 points per game, held the offensive-minded Yellow Jackets to 60 points. But they could only score 53, as Randolph-Macon improved to 5-1 in the ODAC Saturday at Crenshaw Gymnasium. Coupled with Virginia Wesleyan’s victory over Guilford, the Jackets vaulted into a three-way tie for first in the conference with the Marlins and Quakers.
“We knew their plan today was they didn’t want to go up and down the floor with us and play a high-tempo game,” noted Randolph-Macon head coach Nathan Davis. “They didn’t put us on the free throw line, they always had five guys back on defense to make sure we couldn’t get any runouts and easy baskets.”
The officials blew their whistle just six times for fouls in the first half, only one of them credited against the Wildcats. The score at the half was only 25-22, a three-point Randolph-Macon advantage. In spite of shooting 35 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes, Randolph-Macon answered Randolph’s control issues with signature efforts of their own, forcing eight Wildcat turnovers, and stealing the ball six times.
After intermission, Randolph-Macon caught some fire from the outside, shooting 50 percent, overcoming a performance of shooting 0-for-3 from beyond the three-point arc. Forward Joe Hassell scored 10 of his team-high 16 in the second half, Akeem Holmes had eight of his 10, and point guard Marcus Badger had three important short jumpers in the lane at critical junctures to keep the Wildcats at bay.
“I just picked my spots,” Badger explained. “Basically all teams play underneath me and they give me the jump shot. So it was actually a matter of me having the confidence to take the shot.”
Randolph-Macon spent much of the latter part of the second half enjoying a seven-to-nine point advantage, but the Wildcats had a final surge in the final two minutes. The Jackets missed the front end of two one-and-one’s, Connor Sullivan made just one of two at the line. But Randolph could not take advantage, missing shots late, including a three-pointer to cut the lead to two in the final minute.
Joining Hassell and Holmes in double figures were Badger with 10 and Sullivan with 11. The Jackets ended the game as a team with 10 steals, 12 assists, and only eight turnovers.
As for playing Virginia Wesleyan for a share of first place, Badger says it’s just another game in the rugged ODAC schedule.
“We’ve got to take care of business,” Badger announced.
“We have a chance to be in first place and have a tiebreaker of [the Marlins], but the reality is afterwards we have the rest of our schedule,” Davis said.
Wednesday night in Ashland, Randolph-Macon remained in its first-place tie after it routed No. 16 Virginia Wesleyan 78-62 in front of 1,007 fans.
Senior Andre Simon led all scorers with 23 points. The Yellow Jackets (12-4, 6-1 ODAC) remain in a first-place tie in the ODAC standings with Guilford following its victory over Hampden-Sydney. R-MC has won eight straight and 11 of its past 12 contests.