EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Radford raced ahead early, then had enough in the tank at the end to hang on for a big nonconference win.
Carlik Jones scored 20 points, Travis Fields, Jr. added 15 and the Highlanders used a 17-0 first-half run to stun Northwestern and then defeat the cold-shooting Wildcats 67-56 on Tuesday night.
Radford (2-2) shot 41.8% from the floor and outrebounded Northwestern 36-30 in the second meeting ever between two teams. The Wildcats shot just 33%.
Northwestern looked sharp in pulling ahead 12-4 just under four minutes in. Then Radford took charge with its 17-0 spurt en route to building a 31-17 halftime advantage.
“I almost lost my mind in the first four minutes,” Radford coach Mike Jones said, “but (our players) were able to talk each other through and get back on track.
“Once they got on track, they didn’t have to do anything fancy. They were just solid on defense and we made some nice plays offensively and got a little rhythm offensively.”
Pete Nance led Northwestern (1-2) with 16 points and Miller Kopp had 13, but the Wildcats offense went dormant too long after coming out strong. Northwestern put together an 11-0 run of its own late in the game and narrowed Radford’s advantage to 58-50 before late free throws by Jones and Fields sealed it.
Northwestern coach Chris Collins pointed to his team's relative inexperience as a cause for the early meltdown.
“It’s the third game of the season,” Collins said. “Are we disappointed in what happened tonight? Absolutely. Did we play very well tonight? Not really.”
The Highlanders managed the lead well in the second half until the very end. Jones’ third 3-pointer of the game, 8:41 into the second, gave Radford a 21-point lead.
Northwestern closed to within eight points but ran out of time.
“We needed that cushion,” Jones said. “We did just enough. It’s early in the year. We’ve got to learn to finish games the right way.”
But this one was decided early.
Jones hit consecutive 3-pointers midway through the first half to give Radford a 14-12 lead and spark its momentum. But the Highlanders’ run resulted from a balanced attack, tight defense and 23.1 percent Northwestern shooting in the first half.
The Highlanders’ 44.4 percent shooting in the opening 20 minutes was more than enough against the frustrated Wildcats.
Northwestern missed 13 straight field-goal attempts during stretch of over 12 minutes before Kopp connected on a 3-pointer with 3:25 remaining in the half.
“It was just one of those nights where we got into a bind offensively and we couldn’t get out of it,” Collins said. “The other team always has a hand. Their ability to pressure the ball and get us off our spots and off rhythm was definitely a factor and I give them all the credit for that."
Radford: The Highlanders got an impressive win against a Big Ten foe as they look for a third straight 20-plus win season under Jones, who’s in his ninth year at the Big South school. Radford was 22-11 last season and 23-13 in 2017-18. But Jones wasn’t overly psyched. “Last season we had some wins like this early,” he said. “They’re hard to carry over once you get to the league."
Northwestern: The Wildcats have four more nonconference games to shore up their shooting and build poise before opening their Big Ten schedule on Dec. 8 at Purdue. “I thought we were like overanxious,” Collins said. “We got kind of quick-trigger happy. I though Radford’s quickness got us a little sped up and then we just settled for some long jump shots.”
Radford plays at Bradley on Friday night.
Northwestern hosts Norfolk State on Friday night.
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