FERRUM, Va.- Randolph led at halftime but host Ferrum came roaring back in the second half as the WildCats fell to the Panthers 70-66 on Wednesday night. It was the season opener for both teams.
The 'Cats got off to a hot start to begin the game as it roared out to a 14-0 lead in just under five minutes of game time. It was not until 14:19 that Ferrum recorded its first basket of the night. Randolph pushed its advantage to 19-2. An 11-6 run by the Panthers brought the score to 25-13 but the WildCats continued to increase the lead as a Brian Smith (Dumfries, Va./C.D. Hylton) three-point shot with 8:06 remaining in the frame gave Randolph a 33-15 lead.
Ferrum began to mount its comeback with a 15-3 run that included forcing four WildCat turnovers and suddenly the home team was within five points of tying the game, 35-30, with just over a minute left until the break. Three point baskets from Sammy Hooper (Richmond, Va./Midlothian) and Ryan Fields (Edgewood, Md./Loyola Blakesfield) staved off the Panther comeback as Randolph ended the half back up by double digits, 41-30.
The WildCats kept the Panthers at a distance in the beginning of the second half as they held a 47-37 lead at 16:09. A 19-7 Ferrum run gave the home squad its first lead all night, 56-53, at 8:09.
Jump shots from Field and Smith gave the lead back to Randolph but Ferrum countered with a three from Rashad Reed to go up 59-57. A quick 7-3 run by the 'Cats put them ahead 64-62 with 3:33 to go. Ferrum would end the game on an 8-2 run to pull out the victory. The Panthers took the lead for good following a free throw by Carrington Young with just under two minutes remaining to play. A pair of free throws by Field cut the lead to one at 1:43 but a jumper by D'Andre Mullin and a free throw from Reed would seal the game for Ferrum.
Both teams were nearly even in shooting percentage with Randolph edging out Ferrum 45.5-42.4. The WildCats shot nearly 42% from beyond three three-point arc. Randolph also won the rebounding battle 39-29. On the negative side the WildCats committed 18 turnovers that Ferrum turned into 19 points.
"It was a disappointing way to open for us, especially considering how well we played for the large majority of the game," said head coach Pete Hamilton afterwards. "To win any game in college basketball, especially on the road, our focus has to be more consistent."
Leading the way for Randolph was Fields' 20 points on 7-of-17 shooting. He also pulled down a team-high 14 rebounds and dished out five assists. Colton Lee (Raleigh, N.C./North Raleigh Christian Academy) added 12 points and Hooper tacked on 10 points, three rebounds, and two assists.
Despite the result, Hamilton was still very positive about his team. "Ryan led us late and we were just missing one or two possessions to pull this one out," he said. "We have to remain confident moving forward that we can put ourselves in positions to win like tonight. Next time, we'll grab those two possessions and walk away feeling a little differently."
Randolph travels to Fredericksburg this weekend to play in the Hyatt Place Tip-Off Tournament at Mary Washington. Game time against the Eagles on Saturday is set for 7:00 p.m.