University of Richmond coach Chris Mooney knew that the University of Rhode Island was a better 3-point shooting team than its 7 for 50 mark over the past two games indicated. The Rams proved him right as they made 12 of their 27 attempted 3-pointers in their 78-74 victory Thursday night at the Robins Center.
It wasn't just the fact that the Rams attempted and made so many 3-pointers that was key in this game, it was the timing of those 3-pointers that was key in the game.
"I think, almost every time, it came down to them making a 3," Mooney said. "I think that was, in our eyes, that was a little bit of change [of momentum] to go back their way."
No 3-pointer was any bigger than Marquis Jones' basket with 21 seconds remaining in the game. On that possession Rhode Island held the ball until late in the shot clock when Daniel West found Jones for that shot that went in with one second remaining on the shot clock and gave the Rams a 77-72 lead.
After the shot, Mooney and all 6,371 fans at the Robins Center complained loudly to the referees that Jones traveled
On the following Richmond possession, the Spiders wasted precious seconds before senior Kevin Smith, who came into the game with one 3-pointer made all season, was forced to shoot a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left from the right corner. His shot was too long but senior Kevin Anderson got the offensive rebound and was fouled shooting a 3. He made two of his free throws (missing the middle) to cut the URI lead to 77-74.
West was then fouled for the Rams, sending him to the foul-line for a one-and-one with five seconds remaining. To have a chance to win, Richmond needed West to miss the front end. Instead, he calmly hit it in front of the Richmond student section to all but seal the win for the Rams before intentionally missing the second.
Coming into Thursday's game, the Spiders were holding their opponents to under 30 percent from 3-point range. But the Rams countered the usually strong Richmond defense by having constant ball movement that left shooters open for a good look.
"Coming into the game, we knew they had some great shooters and part of what's so bad about it is we knew it and we weren't focused in and guarding them tight enough to not even let them get going on their 3-point shots," senior Justin Harper said.
The Rams picked up their first win in the Robins Center after dropping their last seven games in Richmond. Sophomore Nikola Malesevic was a big reason for the streak snapping, as he scored 24 points, including going six for eight on 3-pointers, and getting 12 rebounds before fouling out with 54 seconds remaining.
Harper and Anderson had their usual big night but the Rhode Island defense was able to key its defense on them as no other Spider scored more than six points. The duo, who have a one-page spread each in Richmond's media packet touting their all-American credentials, combined to score 45 points.
"We need to keep running our offense, keep doing things and just be alert to the fact that there's maybe a mismatch on somebody else or that [defenses] are paying so much attention to [Anderson and Harper] to get [the rest of the team] more into a groove," Mooney said.
The game was played with a back-and-forth flow throughout. The score was tied 12 times and the lead changed 15 times as no team lead by more than seven points. The action on the court was also played in that manner as the teams combined for 19 steals (12 by Richmond) and 29 turnovers.
It was not all bad news for Richmond though. Freshman Derrick Williams had five points, four rebounds, one assist and one block in just five minutes of play. His play shifted momentum to Richmond's favor and got the Robins Center crowd back into the game.
Williams' first major contribution was grabbing an offensive rebound and laying it back in to tie the game at 56 with about 10 minutes remaining in the game. The Robins Center was probably the loudest it had been all season just 20 seconds later when he had an emphatic block on West and Harper followed that up with a block of his own the next Rhode Island possession.
"Derrick brought a lot of energy to the game, some real toughness that he brings to our team and is really going to help Richmond down the stretch as he progresses in his game," Harper said. "Tonight, he just brought so much energy, crashing the glass, defensively, everything."
By that time, the game had gotten chippy with both teams fighting for numerous loose balls midway through the second half. It culminated in dual technicals to Williams and Rhody's Delroy James but that edge remained throughout the rest of the game.
Richmond dropped to 13-5 with the loss and 2-1 in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Rhode Island entered this game on a downward spiral, losing its last two games to the University of Florida and Xavier University by a combined score of 156-104.
Richmond has six days to prepare for its next game as it hosts George Washington University at 7 pm on Jan. 19.
Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at email@example.com
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