When “Simon Says” be more aggressive, attack the basket, or create offense, believe him.
Andre Simon spent Saturday afternoon swooping around and slashing through the Roanoke Maroons’ defense to the tune of 23 points and 13 rebounds as Randolph-Macon took an important 75-62 Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) victory.
The win moved the Yellow Jackets into a tie for fifth place in the ODAC with Guilford, just one game out of third place. The top four regular season finishers get a first round bye in the ODAC Basketball Tournament. The tourney begins Feb. 19, but the first four would have an extra three days of rest, not taking the court in Salem until Feb. 22.
“Andre has played more and more aggressively over the past few weeks and he’s a reason why we’ve won some games,” Randolph-Macon head coach Nathan Davis said courtside after the win, sporting Nike tennis shoes as all coaches did in Saturday’s nationwide “Coaches vs. Cancer” Awareness Campaign.
The win wasn’t without its potential pitfalls, though, as the Jackets missed six easy layup opportunities in the first half alone. Their 12-point intermission advantage of 37-25 could easily have been 20 or 22 points. Roanoke, led inside by Monacan High School graduate Daniel Eacho of Chesterfield, kept hanging around. With the sometimes uneven Jackets in their crosshairs, an Eacho hook shot cut the Macon lead to 56-48 with 6:52 to play.
Enter Lamar Giggetts. Giggetts, a senior co-captain, scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half, none more important than a six-point stretch as the game approached five minutes remaining. Drawing a foul, Giggetts sank two free throws, then calmly nailed two jumpers to extend the Randolph-Macon to double digits for the duration of the game.
“That’s something you focus on all year long,” Davis noted. “There’s going to be ups and downs. You’ve got to keep playing and doing your job and it will take care of itself.”
And so it did. Joining Simon and Giggetts in double-figure scoring were Connor Sullivan with 15 points, but uncharacteristically only one made three-pointer, and Akeem Holmes, impressive off the bench with 10 points and nine rebounds, doubling his season average on the boards of 4.7 per contest. Only nine of Randolph-Macon’s 75 points came from behind the arc.
It was Simon who was the fulcrum by which the machine worked most efficiently Saturday at Crenshaw. His points divided by half (12 in the first, 11 in the second), he made six of nine field goals in the opening stanza, nine of 15 for the game, most of them well inside the paint, showing great athleticism getting around the Maroons’ defense. Simon more than doubled his game average of 11.
By improving to 6-4 in the ODAC, 11-8 overall, the Jackets now prepare for their most difficult stretch of the regular season. First, the Jackets traveled to ODAC leader Virginia Wesleyan Wednesday night (after presstime). The Marlins, 9-1, lost their first conference game Saturday at Washington & Lee, 69-68. On Saturday, Macon travels to Lynchburg, 7-3 in the ODAC going into their Wednesday tilt at Hampden-Sydney. The Jackets need to overcome the Hornets to claim one of the top four positions in the conference.
Then awaiting the Yellow Jackets when they return to Crenshaw? None other than Hampden-Sydney, who defeated Randolph-Macon in Farmville 70-60 on Jan. 16. This three-game stretch will go a long way to determining the Jackets’ ODAC finish and how they will begin the 2013 postseason.
If Andre Simon can continue to impose his will on the inside, the road to a bye becomes that much easier for the home team.