While most of University of Richmond's student body left campus for the holidays, both the men's and women's basketball teams stuck around and began conference play. Here's an update on how both teams fared over the break. 

Men's

Heading into the holiday break, the 5–4 Spiders faced a crucial stretch in their early-season schedule. With a challenging stretch of opponents as well as the onset of Atlantic 10 conference play, the Spiders desperately needed to sharpen their performance.

Following a too-close-for-comfort 78–75 win over UMBC on Dec. 10, coach Chris Mooney acknowledged the team’s offensive stagnation, but said he remained confident that his team would hit its stride.

“I think playing more and more together — I don’t have one thing we can fix or one play — but just kind of chiseling away and playing more and more so that we can read defenses more quickly, react more quickly, and get ourselves moving more quickly,” Mooney said. 

Mooney’s assessment became increasingly evident through Richmond’s holiday schedule. In their 4–2 stretch since their win over UMBC, the Spiders have shown flashes of greatness mixed with the early season rust that has plagued them so far.

The Spiders followed up their 75–55 win over James Madison on Dec. 20 with a hard-fought 79–72 loss to Texas Tech on Dec. 17 in which senior forward T.J. Cline was limited to just 11 points. Following their signs of progress, the Spiders faltered in an 87–72 loss against Oral Roberts on Dec. 23.

Heading into their first conference game against Davidson on New Year’s Eve following an eight-day break, it was hard to know what to expect from the Spiders. Facing their biggest game yet versus a worthy conference opponent, Richmond turned in their best performance of the season.

Richmond appeared to have achieved the quick, free-flowing offense for which Mooney had longed. With a balanced attack in the first half and a 7-of-10 3-point barrage in the second half, the Spiders were able to build a 17-point lead with 12:05 remaining. Three Davidson 3-pointers, four botched Richmond free throws, two questionable officiating calls and one Cline black eye later, Richmond was able to hold on for an 82–80 victory.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign for the Spiders was Nick Sherod’s contribution off the bench. In an increased role with the absence of starting shooting guard Marshall Wood, Sherod had 13 points including two 3-pointers. Sherod’s ability to stretch the floor will be a key factor for the Spiders this season. With his threat to shoot from distance, teams will have to think twice about double-teaming Cline in the post, or helping off of Sherod on a ShawnDre’ Jones drive.

In addition to Sherod, Richmond received impressive contributions from their senior leaders Jones and Cline. Jones scored 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting including some dazzling finishes at the rim. Cline stuffed the stat sheet yet again, with 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists – just two away from a triple double.

Richmond built off its win over Davidson with an 80–72 home win over Fordham on Jan. 4. Behind 22 points from freshman De’Monte Buckingham, the Spiders led the entire game on their way to a 2–0 start in conference play.

Richmond closed out winter break with another strong offensive performance against George Washington. The Spiders jumped out to a 23-point lead with 13:19 left before fending off George Washington’s comeback to hold on for a 77–70 win. Cline led the way with 19 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

Through 15 games, Cline is averaging 18 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. The only player in the history of NCAA basketball to match those totals was Evan Turner in his 2009-10 season for Ohio State, in which he won national player of the year. Should he keep up this pace, there is no doubt that Cline deserves to be in that discussion.

Richmond’s 3–0 start in conference play is their best since the 1997-98 season. They will look to continue their strong start on Wednesday against St. Bonaventure at home.

Women's

The holiday break proved to be a productive one for Richmond’s women’s basketball team. Following a 4–6 start including a 72–45 loss to Hampton on Dec. 15, Richmond rebounded with a 4–2 stretch over winter break including a 2–1 start in A-10 conference play.

Richmond began its holiday schedule with a 71–60 home loss versus East Carolina. Facing the 8–3 Pirates, Richmond struggled to get last year’s leading scorer Janelle Hubbard going, as she finished with only nine points on 2-of-11 shooting.

The Spiders rebounded nicely, however, with a 54–48 road win against Furman on Dec. 20. Richmond got key contributions from guards Lauren Tolson and Micaela Parson, who scored 14 and 10 points. Amy Duggan also pitched in for a team-high eight rebounds off the bench.

Next up for the Spiders was a home game on Dec. 27 against 2–10 Morgan State. Richmond took care of business with a convincing 54–37 win at the Robins Center. The Spiders continued to get major contributions from its starting backcourt. This time, Tolson and Parson garnered 10 and 17 points, as well as a team high 11 rebounds from Tolson.

The Spiders’ next matchup was their conference opener against Saint Joseph's on New Year’s Eve. The Spiders used a balanced attack to take down St. Joe’s, with four scorers in double figures. Their backcourt was impressive yet again, with Parson and Tolson this time each contributing 17 points and nine rebounds.

The Spiders also got great contribution from their bench, namely Hubbard, who shot 6-of-12 from the field for 16 points. Their final double-figure scorer was forward Jaide Hinds-Clarke, who contributed 12 points to go along with four rebounds. Richmond’s 70-point outburst was its second highest scoring total this season.

Despite more strong play from the backcourt, Richmond was dealt its first conference loss in a 62–55 game against VCU on Jan. 5. Richmond kept the game close the whole way, with eight ties and five lead changes.

Richmond rebounded nicely, however, with a 61–54 win over St. Bonaventure on Jan. 8. Behind Hubbard’s 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting, Richmond led for the entire game.

With the win, Richmond improved to 8–8 and 2–1 in conference play. The Spiders will look to continue their strong start to conference play when they hit the road to face Fordham at 12:00 p.m. on Wednesday. 

Contact sports writer Mike O'Connor at mike.oconnor@richmond.edu

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