The University of Richmond women's basketball team opened its season with a dominant 79-62 victory over Kennesaw State University Friday night at the Robins Center.
Richmond jumped out to an early 9-0 lead and never trailed in the game. The largest lead was 27 points with just under 12 minutes left in the second half. The Spiders shot more than 50 percent from the field and scored six three-pointers in 15 attempts.
"I told the team, 'Half of the teams in the nation start 0-1, while the other half starts 1-0,'" Richmond coach Michael Shafer said. "We are still in the national championship hunt. Defensively, I thought we played very good."
The Owls -- picked to finish in second place in the Atlantic Sun Conference -- cut the Spiders lead to 12 with 7:26 left in the game when junior guard DeAndrea Bullock made one of two free throws. But the Spiders then scored five consecutive points in about 30 seconds, shifting the momentum back their way.
"I was very concerned [with the Owls' comeback]," Shafer said. "I subbed in and out everybody to try to get a spark. [The Owls] have the ability to get steals and put the ball in the basket.
"Danielle [Bell] had a big three for us, and then we had some really good possessions where we took time off of the clock and scored."
Sophomore Brittani Shells and redshirt senior Johanna McKnight -- Richmond's top two returning scorers -- led the Spiders' potent offense. Shells scored a team-high 16 points during the game, while McKnight had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Spiders coming off of the bench.
Three other Spiders scored in double figures. Sophomore center Crystal Goring finished with 11 points, and junior forward Nikita Thomas and junior Danielle Bell both added 10 points.
Richmond also received contributions from its four freshmen -- guards Abby Oliver and Rachael Bilney and forwards Joyous Tharrington and Samantha Bilney. Each logged at least 15 minutes of playing time, and Samantha Bilney, who started the game, ended with eight points.
"They all played really well," Shells said. "They all are just having fun out there. They match the other team's intensity."
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The game was the second meeting ever between these two schools with Richmond prevailing last year at Kennesaw State 61-60. Junior Katie Holzer -- who will miss the entire year with a knee injury -- made one of two free throws to secure last year's victory.
The Spiders last played on Nov. 4 in an exhibition game versus DT3. During that game, the Spiders lost, but it showed them what they needed to work on in the 10 days between the two games.
"We worked on transition," Shells said. "We worked on pushing the ball in transition, getting back in transition, and we did a lot of shooting. [The practice] was very important [because] we had a lot of transition tonight."
The Spiders play next at George Mason University at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at email@example.com
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