Longwood rivalry game changes date, as ESPN plans visit

Published 2:28 pm Thursday, December 28, 2023

ESPN cameras are returning to Farmville next month and as a result, the date and time for one of Longwood’s upcoming games will shift. The Big South and ESPN announced on Thursday, Dec. 28 that the network wants the Longwood vs. Radford rivalry game to air as the first Big South Wildcard broadcast of the season. 

Now that means shifting the game, which was originally set for Wednesday, Jan. 10, to Thursday, Jan. 11. Tipoff is now set for 9 p.m. in the Joan Perry Brock Center. Last season, both teams won at home, with Radford taking game one 63-59 and Longwood picking up game two 73-63. 

There’s a couple things driving attention to the first game in the rivalry this season. Currently, Longwood and Radford stand 1 and 2 in the Big South. The Lancers head into this Saturday’s game against Dayton at 12-2, good enough for first place. The Highlanders’ record of 10-4, meanwhile, puts them in second place in the conference. 

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It’s also a national introduction of sorts. Last year, each time Longwood made it on ESPN was for a road game. Before that, ESPN cameras filmed games at Willett Hall. So this marks the first time the Joan Perry Brock Center will be in front of a national audience. And so far this season, playing at the JPB has been an advantage for the Lancers, as they’re 8-0 at home. 

A motivating rivalry 

And if you’re wondering how big the rivalry plays in Farmville, you need look no further than town hall. The town council had originally scheduled their Wednesday meeting an hour early, so everyone could make it out to the game. 

“We may be a ‘small rural town’, but we love when the big lights shine on Farmville or Longwood and we get to show who we are: a vibrant place to live, work, recreate and spectate!” said Farmville Mayor Brian Vincent. 

He encouraged residents to fill up JPB and show their spirit, an idea town manager Scott Davis echoed. 

“This community has always taken advantage of moments like these to show the country what a close-knit, vibrant community we are,” Davis said. “I look forward to being a part of that same energy when the ESPNU cameras turn on.” 

Crunching numbers and ESPN

Both teams head into this game with solid numbers. Longwood has four players currently ranked in the Top 26 of the league in scoring. Walyn Napper (14.4 points per game) leads the way, with Johnathan Massie (12.7 ppg), Michael Christmas (10.9 ppg) and Szymon Zapala (10.6 ppg) all scoring in double figures.

Picked fifth in the conference preseason schedule, the Lancers have significantly outplayed those early projections. The Lancers currently rank first in the Big South in scoring defense (allowing 61.6 points per game), scoring margin (+17.6), field goal defense (allowing 39.3%) and rebounding margin (+13.6).

As for Radford, the Highlanders enter this week on a five-game win streak. They also lead the conference in a couple places, including three-point percentage (38.0%) and three-point defense (28.3%), while ranking second in scoring defense (allowing 66.9 points per game), free throw percentage (74.7%) and field goal defense (39.9). The Highlanders have three players averaging double-figures, led by Kenyon Giles (14.6).

And what about each team’s NET, you ask? NET stands for NCAA Evaluation Tool. It’s the current way the NCAA ranks teams to help determine who gets in the postseason tournament and who stays home. Longwood also sits atop the NET rankings for the Big South at #109 in the nation out of 350. For those keeping score, that’s 41 spots out of an NCAA tournament seat. Radford is second in the Big South NET rankings but much further down, coming in at #139.