Who: Radford University Highlanders
Where: Smith Center
When: Friday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m.
Case for Radford:
Under third-year head coach Mike Jones, the Highlanders return 12 players, including their five top scorers from last year’s 13-19 team. Jones, who spent two years under head coach Shaka Smart at VCU from 2009-2011, led Radford to a 7-9 conference record last season, which resulted in an eighth place finish in the Big South Conference.
The Highlanders, who were picked to finish third in the Big South North Division this season, are led by preseason Second-Team All-Big South forward Javonte Green. Last season, Green averaged an impressive 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, earning him a spot on the All-Big South Second Team.
Look for Radford to pressure GW’s guards in Friday’s game, as the Colonials are still without sophomores Patricio Garino (finger) and Joe McDonald (hip). In last week’s exhibition, Bowie State was able to press a Colonials’ back court that struggled to protect the ball and garnered 30 turnovers. Radford ranked No. 26 in the nation last year with 274 steals, averaging 8.6 steals per game.
Radford is 4-1 in their last five season openers.
Case for GW:
On paper, the Colonials and Highlanders are mirror images. Both teams posted the same number of overall wins, same conference records, and the same amount of non-conference wins. However, despite the similarities, the Highlanders competed in a much weaker conference that sent only one team, Liberty, to last year’s NCAA tournament, compared to five from the Atlantic 10.
Despite turning the ball over 30 times against the Bulldogs last Saturday, the Colonials still cruised to a 17-point win. Third-year head coach Mike Lonergan returns all five starters in GW’s 100th season of men’s basketball, though he’s still searching for his best solution to replace Garino and McDonald – two of his top performers from last season for the time being.
On Saturday, graduate transfer student Maurice Creek posted a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while freshman Miguel Cartagena also had a solid debut, totaling 11 points and two rebounds in 19 minutes of play. Both appeared to serve as quality replacements for Garino and McDonald.
Radford holds a 10-39 record against current members of the A-10. Friday’s game will be Radford and GW’s first-ever matchup.