Longwood gets 29 from Munoz, but Radford gets the win, 67-66
Radford got key defensive stops from Josiah Jeffers on Longwood’s final two possessions and rode a pair of go-ahead free throws from Lewis Djonkam to grind out a 67-66 barn burner in the Dedmon Center.
In a finish that was the highlight of the Big South’s opening week of play, Djonkam sank a pair of go-ahead free throws with 16 seconds remaining, and Jeffers blocked Bennett Mohn’s game-winning three-point attempt at the buzzer to overcome 14 Longwood three-pointers and a career-high 29 points from Lancer point guard Juan Munoz.
The one-point Highlanders’ win is the closest game between the Commonwealth rivals since Radford’s 46-45 win on Feb. 8, 1984, and the third such one-point game since the series began during Longwood’s inaugural season of men’s basketball in 1976-77.
“I told them I was extremely proud of their fight,” said Longwood head coach Griff Aldrich. “The goal here is not to be the best we can be December 14, but to continue to get better. We know we’re undermanned right now, but everybody fought, and they fought throughout to get back in that game.
“But it was a game we should have won.”
Playing without the injured veteran guard duo of Jermaine Drewey and DeShaun Wade, Longwood (1-4, 0-1 Big South) trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half before staging a 30-8 run that turned the double-digit deficit into a 66-64 lead with 1:21 to play.
Munoz was the catalyst to the rally, scoring 16 points and assisting on four Lancer three-pointers to put Longwood within 30 seconds of a home-court upset over Radford (2-4, 1-0), the reigning Big South regular season co-champions.
“We’re at our best when we’re sharing the ball,” Aldrich said of the second-half run. “When the ball was moving and there was patience, we made shots, and I thought they were good shots. But we made too many costly errors, particularly offensive rebounding. I was really disappointed in that. We pride ourselves in being a good defensive rebounding team, and we really didn’t execute in that aspect of the game.”
One of those miscues came back to haunt Longwood in a big way in the closing seconds when Djonkam hauled in a missed shot from Ali, was fouled on his putback attempt, and earned two free shots from the line. The 6-9, 245-pound center sank both of those with 16 seconds remaining to put Radford back on top 67-66.
With no timeouts remaining, Longwood took the ball back down the court and found Mohn in the corner, but Jeffers tipped the ball out of Mohn’s hand to swat away Longwood’s last good look at the basket.
That final exchange negated a heroic performance from Munoz, who put on an offensive clinic for Longwood with five assists and a 7-of-12 three-point shooting performance en route to Longwood’s first 20-point game of the season. His seven made three-pointers tied for the fourth most in a single game in school history and tied for the second most in Longwood’s 17-year Division I era.
In total, Munoz’s five assists led to 14 points, giving him a hand in 43 of Longwood’s 66 points on the night and increasing his team-leading scoring total to 16.6 points per game.
“In the second half, we responded,” said Munoz, who has now hit a three-pointer in 23 consecutive games. “We were down 13, and we kept fighting and really ramped up our competitiveness.
“We talk about three things all the time: Competitiveness, focus on the details, and being connected. We did that in the second half, and we have to carry that over to the game tomorrow.”
Both teams will have little time to recover from Monday’s battle, as the Big South’s unorthodox double-round-robin schedule pits the Lancers and Highlanders against each other in an immediate rematch Tuesday night at 6 p.m.