Richmond women’s basketball chose to remember the past before focusing on the future Friday afternoon.
Ginny Doyle and Natalie Lewis, two members of the women’s basketball coaching staff who lost their lives before the season in a tragic hot air balloon accident, were honored before the Spiders took the court in their first game of the season against the Providence Friars.
Strong defense from seniors Genevieve Okoro and Liz Brown, coupled with five players scoring in double digits, helped the Spiders open their season with a 75-59 win in their emotional return to the court.
Brown was the key to the victory, as she paced the team with a career-high 17 points and eight rebounds, all while playing strong defense and forcing the Friars to commit 25 turnovers.
“We have a bit of a different game plan for me this season as far as not staying in the paint, but instead coming out and being able to shoot the 3-pointer,” Brown said. “It was our job, me and Gen [Okoro], to keep the ball out of the middle of the floor, because we knew that was where they could really hurt us, and I think we did a really good job of doing that.”
Richmond began the game on a strong note when senior Kerri Soppe notched the team’s first points of the season with a tough shot over a defender that fell through the net for three points.
After a quick 5-0 run to begin the game, the Spiders never gave up the lead and led by 18 points at one point.
Okoro, who was named to the preseason All-Atlantic 10 second team for the second straight year, closely matched Brown’s numbers, adding 11 points and six rebounds of her own.
The Friars got off to a poor start, making just 32 percent of their field goals in the first half. Besides Providence’s Alexis Harris, who led both teams in scoring with 19 points, they did not look comfortable or show the ability to handle the ball cleanly, as they were called on traveling violations numerous times.
Richmond’s Bria Powell looked to be in mid-season form with her ability to run the length of the court and capitalize on the weak Providence defense — she scored numerous uncontested layups and step-back jump shots. She ended the night with a career-high 15 points.
Running the offense and controlling the ball distribution for Richmond was freshman Kylie Murphree.
Murphree was called upon early in the game and, despite committing a team-high five turnovers, created many scoring opportunities with her uncanny knack for placing perfect passes to her teammates from half court. Many of her passes led to quick buckets.
“I know that she was definitely nervous, but I thought she did a pretty good job,” Okoro said. “It's hard as a freshman to come in and play right away with other players who have had a shared experience.
“We know how everything goes and how we flow in our offense and our defense, but I thought she did a great job adjusting to our playing style.”
Janelle Hubbard and Lauren Tolson also added 12 points each.
The Spiders will take on Georgetown University at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Robins Center.