ShawnDre’ Jones and Marshall Wood carried a stellar Richmond offense to beat Fordham and break the Spiders’ three-game losing streak.

This win was much-needed as Richmond’s hot start to the season was beginning to seem like ancient history after its loss to Rhode Island last Wednesday, the team’s third loss in a row. The Spiders (9-6) had lost as many games in a rough, weeklong stretch as they previously had all season following losses to Texas Tech, Saint Joseph’s and Rhode Island. The latter two games left Richmond sitting at 0-2 in conference play, but the win against Fordham improved that mark to 1-2.

Jones had 35 points and Wood, starting his first game in place of Deion Taylor, scored 29 as the pair combined to hit 12 of Richmond’s 13 3-pointers in the 93-82 victory. Three-point shooting, the Spiders’ most valuable weapon, has worked against them lately as they have struggled from beyond the arc while simultaneously doing a poor job defending the 3-point line on the other end. For Richmond to hit 46 percent of its 3-pointers while limiting the Rams to 35 percent on their attempts from deep is certainly a step in the right direction.

Richmond had shot just 34 percent from deep in its first two conference games, not a terrible clip, but well below its season rate of 38 percent. More worrisome though was the team’s inability to defend against 3-pointers in these conference games. Saint Joseph’s and Rhode Island combined to shoot a whopping 23-38 from deep, converting on 10 more 3-pointers in the same number of attempts as Richmond.

Against Fordham, Richmond defenders seemed to close out harder and be more disciplined in staying on shooters. The Spiders’ big men don’t block a ton of shots and didn’t block any against the Rams, but they are sturdy post defenders meaning that perimeter defenders should double team more judiciously, something they seemed to do better in their matchup with Fordham. This is particularly impressive considering that Fordham had both the highest 3-point field-goal percentage and the lowest opponent 3-point field-goal percentage in the A-10 coming into this game.

Jones, after being held scoreless against Rhode Island, came out with a determination to get to the rim against the Rams and it paid off, as he drew fouls and made 12-13 of his free throws. Unfortunately, this is usually not the norm. More than half of Jones’s field goal attempts this season are from beyond the arc and he actually shoots slightly better out there than he does on 2-pointers. 

His offense relies heavily on his 3-point shot, which has been great all year, but this game is one of the few times where he’s proven himself as an effective penetrator. More performances like this would serve the Spiders well, especially if he can continue to draw fouls and get to the line where he is an excellent free-throw shooter.

Ultimately though, it’s not really on Jones. Richmond’s offense mostly swings the ball around the perimeter and eventually inside where Terry Allen and T.J. Cline can punish defenders in the post with an array of moves or kick out to shooters if a second defender brings help. It’s a good offensive philosophy that plays into the Spiders’ strengths and avoids the isolation dribbling that plagues all levels of basketball as the sport becomes increasingly guard-dominated. 

Off-ball screens to free up shooters are common for the Spiders, but it’s somewhat rare to see them set on-ball for Jones–at least not as frequently as they were for former standout point guard Kendall Anthony. This isn’t to advocate an offensive overhaul for the Spiders, but rather a tactical shift toward attacking the basket against teams like Fordham and Rhode Island. The Spiders were able to adjust against the Rams and it showed in the outcome as Jones’s driving opened up the outside shooting as well. If they (especially Jones) can continue to drive to the hoop with success, it makes them much more difficult to defend.

The three-game losing streak was a wakeup call and Richmond responded to beat a solid Fordham team. Their 3-point shooting was excellent as it usually is, but Jones getting to the line and converting his chances was quite literally the difference in the game.

Richmond has a chance to build some momentum on Wednesday against La Salle (5-8, 1-2) before taking on VCU at home on Saturday. Look to see if the Spiders can attack the basket if the Explorers are able to take away their opportunities from behind the 3-point line.

Contact sports assistant Walt Abrams at walter.abrams@richmond.edu

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