Facing its toughest opponent to date, the University of Richmond women's basketball team prevailed in a hard-fought 56-48 contest versus cross-town rival Virginia Commonwealth University.
The win propelled the Spiders to a record of 7-0, while the Rams fell to 4-2. This is the longest the Spiders have remained perfect to start a season since the 2004-05 team that started the year 9-0.
"[The record] is something these ladies deserve," said Richmond coach Michael Shafer. "I feel really good for the upperclassmen because they have been through a lot."
Coming into the game, the previous six teams that Richmond faced have combined records of 8-26. Only one team of the six -- Troy University -- came into its game versus Richmond with a winning record.
The win may have given Richmond a perfect record, but the play on the offense for both teams was far from perfect. The Spiders committed 25 turnovers, while the Rams turned the ball over 21 times.
"[The turnovers] were very frustrating for me personally," said Richmond sophomore Brittani Shells. "I'm supposed to lead the team, I'm the point guard. I think I ended the night with 25 turnovers. That's not ideal for a point guard."
Redshirt senior Johanna McKnight added 13 points for the Spiders off of the bench while junior Nikita Thomas led the Spiders with 10 rebounds.
Richmond controlled the game early by playing stout defense. The Rams did not break double-digits on the scoreboard until the 5:59 mark of the first half. By that time, Richmond was up 21-10 and headed into the locker room after the half with a 26-15 lead.
The Spiders built on that lead during the second half and led by as many as 17 points with slightly more than 13 minutes left to go in the game. The Rams then went on an 8-0 run during the next four minutes to cut the Richmond lead to single digits.
"I told the girls before the game [that] the game is not going to end early," Shafer said. "There are bragging rights at stake with this game."
Richmond struggled to get to the free-throw line. During the first half, the Spiders attempted only three free-throws -- and missed them all -- while going 7-9 during the second half from the line. Seven of the nine second-half attempts came in the final minute of the game when VCU fouled intentionally.
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"Instead of attacking the basket, we let their pressure get to us," Shafer said. "In the second half, we were not as aggressive as we needed to be."
The Rams were carried by 6-foot-5 senior center Quantira Hollingsworth and junior Kita Waller. Hollingsworth had a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds while Waller finished with 11 points. Nine of Hollingsworth's points came on free-throws as Richmond sophomore Crystal Goring guarded her most of the night.
"Defensively, [Goring] was very good," Shafer said. "She used her quickness to her advantage. Hopefully, this is a coming-of-age game for her."
The Spiders host the College of William & Mary at 4 p.m. on Dec. 3. The team knows staying undefeated will be no easy task.
"As long as you continue to not get a loss," Shells said, "teams come in to try to beat us."
Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at firstname.lastname@example.org
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