Lancers extend winning streak with takedown of Radford

Published 5:15 pm Thursday, February 3, 2022

Saturday afternoon, Longwood added another conference win to its belt in south-west Virginia against the Highlanders 78-51. This is the fourth game in a row Longwood Women’s Basketball has taken a win over a Big South opponent by double-figures, making it now four wins in a row.

“We’re turning into the second half of the season and we’re really trying to build that momentum,” said head coach Rebecca Tillett on Saturday’s victory. “I think our women are really focused on what the areas are that we need to improve on, and let’s fix them because we have really big goals for the end of the season. All these double-figure wins really speaks to how all our women go about their preparation, and their day-to-day focus.”

“We were playing together as a team, and we responded to the challenges that Tillett and the other coaches have given us leading up to this game,” said Adriana Shipp on the win. “It felt really good to put all the pieces together and get a win.”

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Following the first 10 minutes played, it was all Longwood (11-10, 8-2 Big South) basketball for the remaining three quarters. In the last meeting between the two teams back in 2021, it was the dynamic Smith duo that lead the Lancers to victory, combining for 50 points – Saturday it was some of the same story.

Akila Smith led the offense for Longwood early and throughout the majority of the game. Smith finished the game with 18 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two assists. Alongside Smith, Tra’Dayja Smith claimed all ownership from the outside very early in the game. T. Smith went 2-4 from behind the arch, and 5-8 from the field finishing the game with 13 points while adding to her first rank status with seven more assists on Saturday.

“Our offense is a continuous movement, so if you’re open we’re going to find you,” said Kennedy Calhoun on the success from offense on Saturday. “I think transition really helps us out with this, too. We get out and run, and it plays in our favor because we can hit three’s, layups, everything in transition. Our defensive pressure leads to those plays where we can run and on offense for us anyone can be deadly.”

In the second quarter, the energy shifted to Longwood’s favor. The Lancers were able to hold Radford (5-13, 1-6 Big South) for four minutes straight with no score, creating a gap large enough the Highlanders couldn’t ever catch up to. Rachel LaLonde led the Highlanders with 12 points, nine rebounds, and three steals, just shy of a double-double. Teammates Bryonna McClean and Bridget Birkhead had a pair of eights on the day with a combine of eight assists – each grabbing four.

“We’ve been able to really turn on the pressure on our defense, and having that high pressure system on opposing offensive teams that can’t get into any sort of rhythm,” said Calhoun. “Our mentality is everybody’s guarding the ball, and we help each other out in doing that. Our mentality is, don’t let the person in front of you score, and if they are going to score, it’s going to be a hard shot, it’s going to be a contested shot. We have taken that message and really messed teams up with it.”

“Our defense keeps improving, which is critical to us. Our offense, we continue to get consistent contributions from more different women. We just really want to be hard to guard. When you have more people in double-figures, teams have to respect every women on the floor. We know we have multiple people capable of doing that, and we’ve made it focus since the beginning of the year. So it’s really great that now we’re seeing more consistency with that. Plus, it takes pressure off our leading scorers as well, so they can just do their thing.”

Lead scorer on both sides was again junior guard Kyla McMakin for the Lancers. McMakin finished the game with 19, grabbing most of her points in the fourth quarter. Quiet all game, McMakin started hitting shots late in the game and added to the large win over the Big South competitor. She finished with seven rebounds, one assists, and two steals on top of her total points. The final double-digit scorer of the four for Longwood was Adriana Shipp. Shipp came off the bench and scored 12 points, going 3-5 from behind the arch, and 4-6 from the field.

“Tillett always tells me, she thinks I play my best games when I can get my hands on a couple rebounds first, and I think she has a good point. The games I usually grab a few I score at a higher level,” said Shipp. “I get the aggression from feeding off Akila, and I love that other teammates see me and start going after it on the board, too. Brooke, Bri, and Anne are just a few, that now when they come into the game, too, they get after it. It’s just a good trait to be passing off to teammates.”

Longwood continues with its next conference opponent on Wednesday Feb. 2, back in Willett Hall at 7 p.m. against Charleston Southern.