WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The sluggish first half of Richmond's game against the University of Illinois seems like a distant memory. The Spiders responded in the second half of that game against the Illini and have since played solid basketball, picking up a pair of wins in that span.
Saturday was no different and Richmond never trailed in its 70-62 victory Saturday afternoon at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C.
It appeared early in the second half that the Spiders would cruise for a second straight blowout victory, leading the Demon Deacons by as many as 23. It was about that time that the Deacons started a full-court press on the Spiders, prompting easy points off turnovers.
With about one minute left in the game, Richmond's lead was only five. But unlike some early-season games last year, Richmond was able to make its free-throws late in the game to seal the win.
Sophomore forward Derrick Williams said the large lead that enabled the Spiders to withstand the Deacons' charge could be attributed to a change made after that Illinois loss.
"In the beginning, we figured out we were much better in the second half and we can't do that from now on," he said. "We have to bring it the whole game. We can't be that second-half team like we were against Illinois."
How to play a full game against a BCS conference opponent was one of the many lessons that a young Richmond team -- whose top-three scorers Saturday were a freshman and two sophomores -- had to learn. Another typical test of a young team is how it finishes in a close team against a team like Wake Forest, a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Richmond passed that test as well.
There were a couple of blips late in the game. But when the Deacons got within five with 41 seconds left in the game, Richmond made five of six free-throws to seal the win.
On the defensive end, Richmond kept Wake's ball handlers from driving to the hoop in the final minute. Instead, it was often point guard Tony Chennault dribbling around the perimeter as most of the 7,813 in the stands urged him to make a play.
The defense play along the perimeter by Richmond was strong all game. Wake Forest, a team that averaged about 18 three-point attempts per games this season, attempted only six of them, five of which came in the second half.
Richmond coach Chris Mooney said he had talked to his team about limiting Wake's attempts.
"I thought if we kept them from taking too many threes, that would be a good advantage for us," Mooney said. "You can't necessarily dictate it, but we thought if Travis [McKie] and C.J. Harris and [Chase] Fischer off the bench didn't get threes, they would have a harder time scoring."
McKie did tie his career high with 25 points, and Harris had his season average of 18 points, but Wake got little scoring from its other players.
The defense left an impression on members of the media who usually cover Wake. One of them asked Mooney to describe his defensive scheme and asked if he had a name for it.
"We should come up with a name for it, because then it would get a little more attention," Mooney said, before adding that it was called a match-up zone that left a lot of leeway for his players.
Richmond continues to show that it has moved on from offensive gameplan from last season, when the majority of scoring was done by Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper. Freshman Kendall Anthony scored a career-high 21 points, once again providing a spark off the bench, Cedrick Lindsay scored 15 and Williams added 12.
Once again, it was Anthony, who has had one of the best starts ever to a Richmond career, that was the topic of much conversation. In his 11-point first half, he showed his trademark aggressiveness and exuded confidence on any shot attempt.
"Kendall is pretty fearless," Mooney said. "He has an ability to get his own shot, an ability to get into the lane and an ability to be very disruptive during the game."
Richmond, now on a three-game winning streak to improve to 6-3 this year, has about a week off for finals before playing cross-town rival Virginia Commonwealth Friday night.
Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at email@example.com