Richmond basketball battled to a 65-63 victory over the Pepperdine Wave at “The World’s Most Famous” arena, Madison Square Garden, on Saturday night.
The Richmond Spiders showed off strong defense to start the game, jumping to a 6-0 lead while forcing multiple errant passes and consecutive shot clock violations for the Pepperdine Wave. Richmond picked up 10 steals in the game and caused 13 turnovers.
Trey Davis led the way defensively with five steals, one of which he turned into a huge two-handed dunk that brought the Spider fans in the Garden to their feet.
Coach Chris Mooney pointed to the defensive pressure as a reason his team won. “I thought our 10 steals were one of our biggest keys to the game,” he said. “As well as how well our front court played – stealing, rebounding and making just enough shots.”
Although Richmond was able to shoot 57 percent from the field, the Spiders were not able to slow down Pepperdine’s Shawn Olden and Jeremy Major. Both players finished with 13 points.
The Wave was able to keep the Spiders close by making 17 of 20 free throws, while the Spiders shot only 14 of 25 from the free-throw line.
Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson was not disappointed by his team’s effort. “That was a tough game to lose,” Wilson said. “I thought our guys fought hard. I think our downfall was our turnovers at the wrong time.
“Richmond is going to win a lot of games. They’re very well-coached and very well-disciplined,” Wilson said.
T.J Cline led the Spiders on offense in the first half with eight points and finished the game with 13 points and five rebounds. In a brief postgame ceremony, Cline was named the Gotham Classic Most Outstanding Player.
The Richmond offense, usually highlighted by big numbers from Kendall Anthony, was able to distribute the points better than usual throughout the lineup. Trey Davis and Terry Allen each scored 11 points. Deion Taylor had nine points and five rebounds, but made only five of his 11 free throws, limiting his opportunity to put the Spiders ahead early.
“If Kendall only has seven points and we can win games, that’s a good key. I don’t think he played poorly, I think he took the right shots and made a key 3-pointer late in the game. I think that shows how well our front court contributed,” Mooney said.
Pepperdine did not go down easily, as its players brought themselves within three points with only 46 seconds remaining in the game. Mooney chose to foul Pepperdine with 12 seconds remaining, and Major sank both of his free throws to narrow the lead to just one point.
The Wave was forced to foul Allen, who missed the first of his two free throws but made the second. Pepperdine then raced down the court and missed the potential game-tying shot. Anthony was able to grab the rebound, the clock hit zero and the Spider fans in attendance celebrated.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in Madison Square Garden, so we wanted to come out and seize this opportunity,” Davis said. “I didn’t feel any differently, I think I was just more aggressive this game and we didn’t want to put all the pressure on Kendall and ShawnDre', so the front court really stepped up.”
With the win, the Spiders improve to 5-4 this season and 3-0 in Gotham Classic games following wins over Howard and South Alabama. Richmond returns home December 23 to take on the Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis Jaguars in their final Gotham Classic game.