The Collegian
Saturday, February 04, 2023

Despite loss, Spiders still aiming for Atlantic 10 playoffs

Sunday's basketball game figured to be a defensive battle, pitting two of the best defensive teams in the conference against each other.

St. Louis University entered the Robins Center ranked 14th in the country in scoring defense and led the Atlantic 10 Conference, giving up 59 points per game. The University of Richmond ranked fourth in the conference, giving up 65 points per game.

"They play very clean, but very physical," Richmond coach Chris Mooney said of the Billikens. "They don't steal the ball. They don't overplay. But when you have the ball, their concentration is high and they're zeroed in on making sure you can't drive the ball to the basket."

Mooney and St. Louis coach Rick Majerus had faced each other before in the Mountain West Conference, when Mooney was coaching at the Air Force Academy and Majerus was coaching at Utah University.

"Coach Mooney told us this was going to be the best scouted we'll ever be because Majerus played against him when they were at Air Force," forward Dan Geriot said. "Maybe that had something to do with it."

At the end of the first half, Richmond trailed 28-21, shooting 25.9 percent from the field and making three of 13 three-point attempts. Geriot scored three points as the team's leading scorer, making one of seven field goal attempts. St. Louis' seven-foot center, Bryce Husak, recorded one block but altered several shots in the paint.

"I think in the first half I wasn't working hard to enough to get position," Geriot said. "Most teams overextend themselves, and that makes our cuts more open."

Geriot became more aggressive during the second half, scoring 18 points, but the Spiders still lost 64-55. A Gaston Moliva lay up with 4:16 left in the game gave the Spiders a 49-48 lead, but two free throws by Billikens point guard Kyle Lisch pushed St. Louis ahead, a lead they never relinquished.

"We wanted to try and neutralize their inside game because it's very good," Majerus said. "I think Bryce did a good job of playing seven-foot and getting with it."

The loss was the Spiders' second in their last eight games. A win would have put the Spiders in a three-way tie for second place in the conference. With the loss, they fell to 5-4 in the A-10 and 12-10 overall. They are tied with Duquesne University for sixth place in the conference.

"If we win a couple of games or we win an unexpected game, we don't play as well the next game," Mooney said. "I'd like to just see us be a little more veteran, professional or grown up about how we approach everything. Not that we're immature, I just don't think we're quite there yet. Of course it is because [our team is] dominated by so many freshmen and sophomores."

Richmond will face Duquesne on Saturday in Philadelphia. Duquesne enters the game after having played Dayton on Wednesday night. Entering the Dayton game, Duquesne had won back-to-back league games, beating La Salle University on Feb. 9 and St. Joseph's University 101-84 on Feb. 6.

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"We had a good week, but we probably needed to," Dukes coach Ron Everhart said.

Duquesne blocked 28 shots during its two wins, and 6-foot-10 center Shawn James passed Shaquille O'Neal and Michael Anderson for the most blocked shots in NCAA history.

While St. Louis might have had the best scoring defense, Duquesne is leading the A-10 in scoring offense, averaging 85.9 points per game. The Dukes scored more than 100 points during their last two wins over LaSalle and St. Joseph's. They are led by James, who averages 14.3 points per game and is shooting 58 percent from the field. Two other players average in double figures: Guard Kojo Mensah averages 13.6, and forward center Kieron Achara averages 11.1.

But while Duquesne is giving up 73.8 points per game, the second worst average in the conference, the team forces a lot of turnovers. The Dukes are leading the conference in turnover margin, forcing almost three turnovers more per game than their opponents. They are second in the league blocks, and Duquesne is the only team in the A-10 to force more steals than the Spiders, averaging a league-high 9.68 steals per game. Richmond averages 9.09 steals per game.

"We've got some guys who are starting to get a little more active defensively," Everhart said. "If your guys are getting to the ball, which our guys are starting to do a better job of, of course that really helps"

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