|Posted on March 13, 2018 at 8:45 PM|
Article by Dan Tortora
The 2018 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament officially kicked off with the "First Four's" initial match-up from Dayton, Ohio, where the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds and Radford Highlanders took on one another as dual 16-seeds in the East Region for the right to advance to the Round of 64 to face the 1-seeded Villanova Wildcats in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Junior guard/forward Raiquan Clark of LIU-Brooklyn hit a three to get his team within four of Radford, 20-16, then connected on a jumper inside the arc to get the game back within four for LIU-Brooklyn shortly after, at 22-18.
Teammate, sophomore guard Jashaun Agosto, brought the game back to a two-possession scenario for the Blackbirds after going to the rim for the quick flip up and in, giving LIU-Brooklyn a 25-20 deficit.
With under a minute to go before halftime, redshirt-senior guard Joel Hernandez launched from the right elbow and cashed in, getting LIU-Brooklyn within two, 30-28.
The only lead that the Blackbirds held in the first half was at 3-2 off of a shot from beyond the arc by redshirt-sophomore guard/forward Julius Van Sauers, 43 seconds into the contest.
Junior forward Ed Polite, Jr., gave the Highlanders the advantage at the 18:57 mark off of a jumper that made it 4-3, which they woiuld take all the way into the locker room at the break despite the Blackbirds cutting their deficit to as little as two points and one point on multiple occasions.
Within the first four minutes of the second half, LIU-Brooklyn connected on back-to-back threes to take the lead, off of the hands of redshirt-senior forward Zach Coleman, who tied the game at 35, and sophomore guard Julian Batts, who rose the Blackbirds to a 38-35 advantage.
Radford responded with three straight buckets, courtesy of redshirt-freshmen guard Carlik Jones, who took the lead back at 39-38, followed by sophomore guard Travis Fields, Jr., who connected from beyond and then inside the arc, all accumulating to a 44-38 lead for the Highlanders with under 14 minutes to play in the game.
Like in the first half, a shot from Batts brought the Blackbirds within two possessions, this time at 57-52 with just over seven minutes to play. He would make it back-to-back three-pointers when he released his attempt on the very next possession that shrunk the Highlanders' advantage to two, 57-55.
With just over 4:30 to go, Hernandez went 1-for-2 from the charity stripe to come within two, 61-59, but Fields would hit a clutch three followed by sophomore forward Devonnte Holland going inside for two to extend the Highlanders out to a 66-59 lead with just under three minutes to play.
Down 68-61, there was a glaring issue for LIU-Brooklyn: Free throws. They were 16-for-23 at the time. If they had made the seven freebies that they missed, the game would have been tied by the final minute.
With 43.4 seconds to go, Radford had a double-digit lead.
Polite and Carlik Jones would each end the game with a double-double for the Highlanders, Polite with 13 points and 12 rebounds and Jones with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Agosto led all Blackbirds with 16, followed by Clark with 14 and Batts with 13.
They would win the first game of this year's NCAA Tournament by a score of 71-61.
LIU-Brooklyn will head back to New York, while Radford will be repping the state of Virginia in Pittsburgh for the Round of 64 against Villanova.