Men's Basketball, Sports, WVU Sports

WVU falls to Radford, 66-65, after buzzer-beater shot from DaQuan Smith

It was all set up Wednesday night for RaeQuan Battle to be the hero, yet in a season that has been one disbelief after another for the WVU men’s basketball team, it ended up being the other ’Quan that made the difference.

Radford guard DaQuan Smith picked up a loose ball and fired in a miracle shot from about 18 feet out with 1.5 seconds left to give the Highlanders a 66-65 victory inside the Coliseum.

“It was a busted play,” said Radford coach Darris Nichols, a former WVU standout who once hit a buzzer-beater of his own to beat Clemson in the 2007 NIT. “You don’t know what’s going to happen on a busted play.”

What happened was somewhat unreal.

With WVU leading 65-64 with nine seconds left on the clock, Battle stood at the foul line with a one-and-one opportunity to expand the lead.

Up to that point, Battle’s debut was like a dream come true. After battling the NCAA for his eligibility this season, and then the flu, he scored 29 points in his first game back.

“I felt comfortable,” Battle said. “I’ve been playing for years. Basketball is an every day thing for me. I was a little tired, but it was fun getting out there with my team and actually do what we’ve been doing all summer.”

But in this particular moment, Battle missed that first free throw.

“I felt like I rushed it for sure,” Battle said of the free-throw attempt. “My mom is going to be mad at me on that one.”

Radford’s Chandler Turner grabbed the rebound and threw a pass to teammate Bryan Antoine.

With the clock ticking away, Antoine fired a pass to Smith on the right wing, who bobbled the pass and had the ball start to roll away in front of him.

Smith, who finished with 18 points on 8 of 19 shooting, somehow got the ball back and hoisted off a shot while leaning back on one leg.

It was nothing but net.

“It was an unfortunate ending to a heck of a battle,” WVU head coach Josh Eilert said.

It was an unfortunate ending, too, for Battle’s first game back.

Since September, Battle has gone through two denials from the NCAA for his eligibility under a mental-health exception the NCAA created this summer.

His case was then taken to a federal court, where the state of West Virginia, along with six other states combined their efforts in a lawsuit against the NCAA, claiming its transfer rules violated antitrust law. That eventually turned into an agreement between the states and the NCAA to allow all athletes sitting out this season the right to play.

And Battle took full advantage of it against Radford. After missing his first two shots, Battle drove to the rim and scored over a double-team. He added a 3-pointer, some baseline jump shots and went 10 of 13 from the foul line for those 29 points.

He also cramped up late in the first half — “The worst cramp of my life,” he said. — which forced his late arrival coming out of the locker room after halftime.

“Everything is good,” Battle said. “It was kind of tight for most of the game.”

WVU guard Noah Farrakhan, who also gained his eligibility this season through the court case, added 16 points and seven rebounds.

Everyone else with a WVU jersey on struggled, as the Mountaineers were playing their first game without star center Jesse Edwards, who is out for a month with a fractured wrist.

“We need a more balanced attack moving forward,” Eilert said. “Everybody on the floor has got to share it and get the really good shot, not the forced shot. We’ve forced a lot of things over the course of 11 games.”

** Edwards had surgery on his fractured right wrist Wednesday afternoon. He was still in recovery and did not attend the game.

Eilert said the surgery was successful.

“I haven’t talked to him yet, because the surgery got pushed back later in the afternoon,” Eilert said. “I got word that everything went really well. He’s resting and now the clock is ticking for his recovery.”

** WVU guard Kobe Johnson did not play.

“That’s between me and Kobe,” Eilert said. “It was a coach’s decision.”

Johnson had started the season’s first 10 games and is averaging 9.3 points per game.