The University of Richmond men's basketball team had not beaten Atlantic Coast Conference foe Wake Forest University since Jan. 15, 1990. The Spiders had not scored 90 points or more since defeating Virginia Military Institute Nov. 16, 2009, when they won 103-59. The Spiders accomplished two more statistical feats as the team cruised to its fourth win in five games over a Bowl Championship Series conference school, winning 90-74 at home on Wednesday night.
Spider senior guard Kevin Anderson led all scorers with 23 points. Three other Spiders scored double-figures, perhaps the most special being senior forward Justin Harper's 1,000th point in the second half. Harper finished with 20 points.
Wake Forest freshman forward Travis McKie, a Richmond native, led the Demon Deacons with 19 points.
Wake Forest led 7-5 with 18:07 left in the first half, but that would be its last lead of the game.
The Spiders started out slowly in the first half, plagued by fouls and turnovers, but Anderson started a small spurt hitting back-to-back lay-ups to put the Spiders ahead 16-11 with 12:06 remaining in the first half. Richmond continued to extend the lead, but Wake Forest stayed close, ending the first half with the Richmond leading 36-33.
The Spiders seemed to wake up when senior center Dan Geriot hit a jumper from an assist from junior forward Francis Cedric-Martel, putting Richmond up 40-38 early in the second half.
On the following Wake Forest possession, Martel stole the ball from McKie, passed to Anderson - who missed a lay-up - but Geriot was there with the put-back. Another Wake Forest turnover led to a jumper by Harper. Senior Demon Deacon Gary Clark halted the Spiders' run with a lay-up. Clark finished with 14 points.
The Spiders pushed the lead to 51-42 with 14:45 left in the second half, following two explosive dunks by Harper and senior forward Kevin Smith. A total of 8,113 fans filled the Robins Center — without the student section — and they seemed to erupt with cheers after Harper's first dunk. Smith's dunk was no less impressive.
Both teams fed off of the crowd's energy as they came to a standstill midway through the second half, with the score 54-54. That was when Anderson came alive.
Anderson sunk an NBA-range 3-point shot to spark an 11-0 run. Anderson assisted sophomore guard Darien Brothers for another 3-point shot, and then Anderson's defense woke up too as he stole the ball from Wake Forest junior forward Nikita Mescheriakov for a lay-up. Anderson completed the 11-0 run with another 3-point shot with 9:36 remaining, putting the Spiders ahead 65-54.
Wake Forest began to close the gap after a dunk by Richmond's Harper drew a technical foul against the Spiders. Wake Forest sophomore guard C.J. Harris made both free throws, and sophomore forward Ari Stewart completed a three-point play, which drew the Demon Deacons to a six-point deficit, 71-65 with 5:50 remaining in the second half. Wake Forest would not come within six points for the remainder of the game.
The Spiders, who snapped a 17-game losing streak against Wake Forest, improved to 11-3 as the team heads into its last non-conference game against Bucknell University on Jan. 2 at the Robins Center.
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Richmond coach Chris Mooney said that wins against teams who had large winning streaks against Richmond was important to build the program.
"It is important for us to compete and to know that we can compete with anyone in the country," he said.
Anderson and Harper, two marquee seniors on a team that plays several seniors, agreed that the key to the second half run was their leadership.
"All of us as seniors need to take our experience into account in tight games, and I think it showed tonight with the 11-0 run, started by Kevin [Anderson]," Harper said.
Mooney also said that two other seniors, Geriot and Smith, filled important roles that help the Spiders win.
"This could have been Dan's best game of the year, and he runs the offense so smoothly," Mooney said. "And everyone can tell that Kevin Smith brings energy and certain intangibles that help the team win."
The Spiders play at home Jan. 2 against Bucknell University, and then again Jan. 5 against the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, Richmond's first Atlantic-10 Conference opponent of the season.
Contact staff writer Amelia Vogler at email@example.com
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