After fumbling two games non-conference games that were easily winnable, an eight point loss at Duquense, and a two point loss at home to William and Mary, fighting injuries to transfer Laz Trifunovic and senior Phillip Martin, it appears Radford is finding it's bearings.
The coming out party for this season was a 80-53 shackling of everyone's favorite Cinderella, the Patriots out of George Mason. They always seem to be on the schedule, as we hadn't beat the program since 1993, yet we were able to dominate them from opening tip to the buzzer. Now they aren't the 2006 Final-Four dancing Patriots, but they were expected to finish in the top 3 in the CAA, and followed up the beating we gave them with a decisive victory over CAA favorite ODU.
Artisom Parakhouski, who won his second Big South player of the week award this season for his perfomances at Louisville, an off night for the big man with just 14 points and eight rebounds, the pounding he gave Mason, 34 points, 12 rebounds on 11-15 shooting, and Asheville, who Big Art put up 31-7 on. He is currently 5th in the nation in scoring (23.8) and second in rebounds (12.8).
Everyone knows Art can rebound and score. Prior to this three game stretch, and the game after, vs. Gardner Webb, Art was hovering around 50% from the foul line. In the last four games, he's 26-35 from the charity stripe. That type of improvement is going to be paramount The NBA is taking notice too, as scouts have showed up to most, if not all of RU's games this year.
Onto Mr. Trifunovic, the Binghamton transfer that sat out all of last year, and decidedly got out of Binghamton at the right time (what an absolute mess that program is now) Trifunovic stirred up some excitement for the program, but broke his wrist in the preseason and was inactive until December.
Trifunovic is a key cog in the offense. He debuted in our conference opener @ Winthrop, but didn't really catch on until recently. He's potentially good for a double-double a contest, he can dribble drive for a big guy and shoot. Most importantly he's a big guy for someone playing a three, so he's able to defend using size and post up the smaller players that typically guard him.
All three of our bigs are capable of putting up huge numbers on any given day, but the versatilty of Laz has been a welcome site to the program.
The freshman are playing like freshman at times. Oft starter Blake Smith was thought by many to be the super frosh, but has declined since his opening three games to the season that almost caused the crowd to clamor of Whit Holcomb-Faye... well, not really. Evan Faulkner has supplied good minutes and played well in the first two games without Amir Johnson. They are solid thus far, and with continued learning are going to help us out in the postseason as well as next year.
Martin returned to action against George Mason, but it is not playing his full ration of minutes again just yet, he suffered broken ribs at the Highlanders loss to Kansas back on December 9th. Martin is a great defender, and considered to be the "glue guy" by head coach Brad Greenberg.
Coming up for the Highs Saturday is a road contest at the raucous, tiny Millis Center, against a High Point team that is 3-1 in conference so far. Afterwards, the beach trip, from Conway to Charleston.
Coastal Carolina is thought by many bracketologists to be the favorite, well, the ones like Jay Lunardi who don't research. (His first editions blindly slapped Coastal in his bracket as high as a 13 seed) They are 15-2, 5-0 in conference, however, their out of conference schedule is deplorable outside of a season opening win at College of Charleston and a win over the MVC's Indiana State. They too, like Radford got blown out by Duke.
Four cupcake wins, two wins against lowly Georgia Southern, and two more wins against Elon and Savannah St, (already double-digit loss teams) and a loss to the Big West bottom feeder CS Northridge? In terms of ATH, I'm selling the Chanticleers. In other terms, against RPI 200+, Coastal is 8-0.
Joseph Harris can be neutralized, if not shut down. We've done exceptionally well at shutting down opponents guards of late, see all-CAA candidate Cam Long for Mason, Gardner Webb's Grayson Flittner, who torched UNC earlier this year, and Asheville's host of guards. My guess is Laz will defend Harris, especially since he rebounds well for a guard, and just generally plays big.
In the paint, Coastal won't be able to compete. Jon Pack is not the answer to Art Parakhouski. The chicken coop will likely be rocking, but I just don't see it happening. Now, I'm not saying this is going to be a blowout, but Coastal is going to be hard pressed to put a winning effort up against us.
Provided we continue our success in not turning the ball over, and our improved FT shooting as a team, the next three games are wins. For those of you weary of conference road games, we've won our last 11.
Next three games-
Sat. 1/9 @ High Point Prediction: W, 78-65.
Thurs 1/14 @ Coastal Prediction: W, 81-72
Saturday 1/16 @ Charleston Southern: W 80-61