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Radford beats LIU Brooklyn in NCAA tournament opener

NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Four - Dayton

DAYTON, OH - MARCH 13: Ed Polite Jr. #24 of the Radford Highlanders is defended by Raiquan Clark #23 of the Long Island Blackbirds during the First Four game in the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 13, 2018 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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The 2018 NCAA tournament began Tuesday night in Dayton, with 16-seeds LIU Brooklyn and Radford kicking things off in the First Four. Radford, which rode its defense to the Big South tournament title by holding their opponents to an average of 52.3 points per game, found a way to limit LIU Brooklyn’s Joel Hernandez. Radford took away both Hernandez and the Blackbirds’ three-point shooting, and the end result was a 71-61 victory.

The win is Radford’s first-ever NCAA tournament victory, and the team’s reward is a date with East Region top seed Villanova on Thursday in Pittsburgh.

Hernandez, who scored 32 points in LIU’s win at Wagner in the NEC title game, shot 3-for-11 from the field and scored just eight points on the night. But the bigger issue for LIU Brooklyn was its perimeter shooting, as Derek Kellogg’s squad went through lengthy stretches in which it settled for perimeter shots instead of attacking the Radford defense.

The Blackbirds shot just 7-for-26 from three, which was a major factor in the team making just 38 percent of its shots from the field.

Ed Polite Jr. and Carlik Jones both posted double-doubles to the way for the Highlanders, with Polite tallying 13 points and 12 rebounds and Jones adding 12 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Travis Fields Jr. added 13 points off the bench, with ten coming in the second half. Fields’ three-pointer with 3:28 remaining gave Radford a 64-59 lead, and the Blackbirds would get no closer from that point on.

LIU Brooklyn, which was unable to get the tempo in its favor, was led offensively by Jashaun Agosto with 16 points. Raiquan Clark added 14 points and Julian Batts 13 to go along with eight rebounds.