HAMPDEN-SYDNEY, VA - Tenth-ranked Randolph-Macon College narrowly escaped from Hampden-Sydney with a 70-68 win in a classic game in the storied rivalry in front of a packed, standing-room-only crowd of 2,500.
The game was tight early on with three tied and four lead changes taking place in the first-half. H-SC held the advantage on the scoreboard for the first 11 minutes of the game. However, the Tigers never led by more than four points as the Yellow Jackets went toe-to-toe with H-SC. After going up by four points, 14-10, with just under nine minutes played in the first stanza, the Yellow Jackets began to slowly chip away at the lead and build a big advantage of their own.
Over the next five minutes, Randolph-Macon went on a 15-3 run to take an eight point lead and force a Tiger timeout at the 5:33 mark. R-MC continued to build their lead, however, and went up by 13 at the 1:56 mark on a Calvin Croskey three pointer. The H-SC defense held R-MC scoreless for the remainder of the half and went into intermission down 34-24 as Ben Jessee (Midlothian, VA/Cosby) hit a three to cut down the lead.
Each team came out of the locker room on fire to open the half as the two teams combined to make seven of their first eight combined field goal attempts. After a Jessee three, the lead was just eight, 40-32, with 17:49 remaining. R-MC went on a huge 17-4 run over the next five minutes to take a 21-point lead by taking the ball inside to get layups and go to the free throw line. With the Yellow Jackets looking to run away with the game, H-SC continued to fight hard on both ends of the court to slowly get back in the game and set up a thrilling finish.
An 11-2 Tiger spurt put it back at a 12-point contest, 59-47, at the 9:16 mark with a Alex Potapov (Moscow, Russia/Florida Air) and Patrick Corrigan (Richmond, VA/Collegiate) three bookending the run and forcing R-MC head coach Nathan Davis to call a timeout. Danny Jones would make two more free throws to put the lead back out to 14, 61-47, but after that the Randall Ward (Richmond, VA/John Marshall) and Harrison George (Raleigh, NC/Leesville) show took over. The combo combined for eight points in two-and-a-half minutes to make it a six-point game with just 5:23 left in the contest.
R-MC's Brandon Braxton scored on a jumper in the pain while Croskey hit a three to give them an 11-points advantage, but Ward and George went back to work for seven straight points and a Ru White (Chesterfield, VA/L.C. Bird) free throw made it a three-point game with 1:06 to go. Danny Jones was sent to the charity stripe with a minute left and made both attempts to give them some breathing room, up five, 70-65. Croskey committed a cardinal sin on the defensive end on the Tigers next possession, fouling Jessee on a three-point attempt to send him to the foul line for three shots with 57 seconds left. Jessee drilled all three attempts to cut the advantage to two.
Danny Jones, who was 10-10 from the foul line up to this point, was fouled at the 28 second mark. Behind a raucous crowd, Jones was rattled and missed both attempts with Jessee grabbing the board. Ward put up a three pointer with two seconds left, but it was an air ball that went into Croskey's hands, where he was immediately fouled. With a chance to secure the victory with two free throw attempts, Croskey succumbed to the pressure and missed both attempts with 1.7 seconds left. George grabbed the board and got off a desperation attempt from ¾ court that sailed wide of the rim.
George led all scorers with 20 points and also had six rebounds as he shot 8-14 from the field, converting on numerous looks in the paint. Ward posted 14 points, shooting 5-10 overall and 3-8 from three. Jessee scored 11 points and was 5-7 from the foul line and Corrigan tallied 10 points, shooting 3-6 overall and 2-4 from three range. White struggled shooting, making just two of eight shots, but found many other ways to contribute with six boards, six assists, three steals, and two blocks.
Jones led the visitors with 18 points off the bench, going 4-7 from the floor and 10-12 from the free throw line. Braxton added 12 points and Jordan Brown had nine points and four assists. Four other Yellow Jackets had between 7-8 points for a balanced scoring effort.
H-SC shot 42% (21-50) as a team compared to 47.7% (21-44) for R-MC. Randolph-Macon was 7-18 (38.9%) from three while Hampden-Sydney was 9-22 (40.9%). The big difference came at the charity stripe, with R-MC making 21-32 attempts compared to 17-23 for the Tigers. H-SC outrebounded Randolph-Macon 31-30 while each team had 12 assists, 11 turnovers, and five steals. Hampden-Sydney also had four blocks compared to three for the visitors. The Tigers held a 13-6 advantage in second chance points as they made the Yellow Jackets pay with 12 offensive rebounds.
Hampden-Sydney will host Lynchburg College on Wednesday, January 26, at 7 p.m. Lynchburg defeated the Tigers 70-65 on January 12.