The first two games of the year, the University of Richmond had to rely on a small freshman guard and a sophomore point guard with no career starts entering this year for scoring. On Thursday night, that small freshman still was one of Richmond's top scorers, but it was a pair of upperclassmen that had the biggest points.
Junior guard Darien Brothers, the lone returning starter from last year's Sweet 16 team, broke out of an early-season shooting slump to score eight-straight points in a two-minute span to lead the Spiders to a big first half. Senior center Josh Duinker had his own 8-0 run to help the Spiders (2-1) pull away from the Pirates, 72-51, Thursday night at the Robins Center.
Brothers provided much of Richmond's first-half offense, scoring 12 of the team's 32 points. His first three-pointer -- which was the first of the year after he missed his previous five attempts this year -- put Richmond up 5-2 three minutes into the game and was celebrated with a subtle fist pump. By the time he capped his 8-0 run with another three-pointer, the celebration had grown into a full-blown scream.
He finished with 15 points to lead Richmond and said that his first three was what had helped him find his shooting stroke.
"The past two games, I've been struggling with just shooting and everything," Brothers said. "And I felt [the first shot] got my confidence going up."
Brothers would make a four-point play before the end of the half, to keep him perfect on his first four shot attempts. He missed his next four shots in the half and Richmond went cold on the offensive end.
The Spiders shot just 32 percent for the half and saw their 16-point lead that came with four minutes left in the half get cut to six by the half. At the time, it looked like their early-season shooting bugaboo would keep Hampton, a senior-laden team coming off of an NCAA tournament appearance but a team Richmond was expected to beat, in the game.
Things got dicier for Richmond when Hampton trimmed the lead to four. That's when Duinker, a 6-foot-11 reserve center from Australia, stepped up. A career 29 percent three-point shooter, Duinker stepped into a three-pointer to give Richmond a better hold of the game.
After a pair of free-throws by Duinker, he once again confidently hit a three to give Richmond a 44-32 lead with 15 minutes left in the game.
He missed his next shot, another three-pointer, but ended the game with 10 points, three shy of his career high.
That run by Duinker proved exactly what the Spiders needed to get out of their funk and helped to lead them to make exactly half of their 28 second-half shots and 7 of their 12 three-pointers that half.
"I think tonight was more of a result of Darien was great coming out and set a little bit of a tone and gave everyone confidence," Richmond coach Chris Mooney said. "And then, we really moved the ball well and got open shots, much more in our rhythm, playing within how we play."
Much of the credit for Richmond's success usually goes to the defense, and Thursday was no different. Brothers was quick to praise it when asked about the difference between the halves and it held Hampton's leading scorer, Darrion Pellum, to eight points on 3-of-17 shooting.
"Coaches told us to play close attention to him," Brothers said. "When he was on one of our wings, we made sure we were on him tight and let him get any shots."
The game was the first of the Cancun Challenge, which will test the young Spiders. Not only do they have a game against the University of Illinois next week, they also have a quick turn-around for their next game at 5 p.m. on Saturday against Sacred Heart University.
With a young team though, Mooney said he liked to have a small gap between games following a win like Thursday's.
"Our team needs every drop of confidence it can get, every kind of win under our own belt," he said. "We're proud of our tradition, and our recent tradition, but this is our team this year. We need to continue to play well and gain confidence."
Game Notes: Freshman guard Kendall Anthony scored 14 points, the first time this year he has not led the Spiders in scoring... Hampton missed all eight of its three-point attempts in the second half... Richmond outrebounded Hampton, 45-42, the first time this year that has happened.
Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at email@example.com