For the past four years, Richmond coach Chris Mooney was no stranger to the smallest player on the court for Richmond doing most of the scoring. If Friday night's season opener is any indication, he'll get to see that happen for the next four years.
Kendall Anthony, a 5-foot-8 freshman from Jackson, Tenn., did his best Kevin Anderson impression, leading the team with 20 points off of the bench.
"He gives a lot of problems to the defense because of his quickness," Richmond coach Chris Mooney said. "He's so aggressive, he attacks the defense. We know we have a good player, [but] I wouldn't have expected 20 in his opening game."
Anthony entered the game with 14:42 left in the first half, and made an impact a little more than a minute later. His pass set up forward Derrick Williams for a lay-up, giving him his lone assist of the game.
At the half, Anthonny had four points on 1-of-4 shooting. He settled for a pair of three-pointers, missing both. In the second half, Anthony started driving more often to the basket (making his lone three-point attempt of the half) that allowed him to get to the foul line more often.
"We saw film of [Richmond's] scrimmage game and there's three things" that stood out about Anthony, American coach Jeff Jones said. "One was he's really little, the second was he's really fast and the third was he scores the ball."
Said Williams: "The one thing I like about him is he's a little ball of energy."
Anthony was one of the different aspects for the Spiders this year. The graduation of Anderson, Justin Harper (who is on the same team in France as Anderson) and Dan Geriot took away three of Richmond's top scorers. How Richmond was going to replace their production was a big question entering the season.
Senior Francis-Cedric Martel (11 points, all in the second half) and junior Darien Brothers (two points) were expected to graduate to the role of primary scorers, but took a back seat to Anthony and sophomore Cedrick Lindsay. The back-court duo combined to score 37 points and shoot 20 free throws, thanks to their driving.
That aggressiveness was different than last year's team. Although Anderson would occasionally drive but would pull up for a floater, like he did over Vanderbilt's Festus Ezeli for what proved to be the game-winning shot in last year's NCAA tournament. Otherwise, a majority of the shots last year were threes.
"I think we're a better shooting team than we showed tonight (37.5% from the field), but we're not a great shooting team," Mooney said. "But we are a team that's athletic and physical and can get to the free-throw line."
On defense, the youth and inexperience showed as the Eagles often found themselves open for a three. They made 10 threes which disturbed Mooney, who said that Richmond had been good at preventing teams from getting those looks.
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"Now, they're a team that's going to make a lot of threes, so that's one thing," Mooney said. "That is disappointing [though]. I thought a couple of times, we had opportunities to not allow them to shoot threes, or be so open and they were."
It would have been unrealistic to expect a team that returned only one player that had significant starting to have its first game go without a hitch. That's the way Friday's game went, with Richmond trailing by as many as nine during the first half.
The way that the Spiders won that game with large contributions from their young players gives them hope for another successful year.
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