The University of Richmond men's basketball team will face Virginia Commonwealth University Thursday night at the Robins Center, but Richmond's team looks a lot different than than it did when it fell to the Rams, 81-70, at VCU in February.
When asked how Richmond's team had changed in the past month, Richmond head coach Chris Mooney said, laughing, "Well, I mean, we don't have Cedrick [Lindsay] and, we don't have Derrick [Williams]."
Richmond learned in two consecutive days following the loss at VCU that it would lose senior starters Williams and Lindsay for the remainder of the season. Williams, who was averaging 5.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, left the team for personal reasons. The following day, the team announced that Lindsay, who led the team with 18.4 points per game and 34.6 minutes per game, would miss the remainder of the season because of a torn meniscus in both knees.
"We lost a great player [Lindsay] who is probably a first-team all-league player," Mooney said. "That's the biggest difference."
Despite losing at VCU in February, the Spiders stood at 14-8 and had recently beaten No. 13 University of Massachusetts and St. Joseph's University. But the loss of Richmond's only two seniors in the middle of Atlantic 10 play raised questions of whether the team would be doomed.
"Derrick and Cedrick are very big assets to our team," said Kendall Anthony, Richmond's leading scorer since losing Williams and Lindsay. "When we lost them, we were down for a little bit, but we knew we had the season to keep going."
Richmond won its first three games without Lindsay and Williams, which earned Richmond national recognition from ESPN's Joe Lunardi. But the Spiders have lost three of their last four games, which looked to have knocked the Spiders off the bubble for the time being. Two of these losses came at George Mason University and University of Rhode Island, which are each in the bottom three of the Atlantic 10 standings.
Richmond's recent struggles have been with its offense. The Spiders have been held under 65 points in each of its last four games, including a 43-point night in its most recent game at Rhode Island, which was Richmond's lowest scoring total this season by 15 points.
Since losing its two seniors, Richmond's catalyst has been Anthony. In Richmond's four wins without the seniors, Anthony has averaged 21.5 points per game. In Richmond's three losses, the 5-foot-8-inch Anthony has averaged 15 points on 35.6 percent shooting. In Richmond's most recent loss, a 66-43 loss at Rhode Island, Anthony shot just 2-20 and scored eight points--the first time he's been held to single digits in 21 games.
There's a lot on Anthony, Mooney said.
"You kind of add all the responsibilities [Lindsay] had to [Anthony]," Mooney said, "and suddenly he has a lot of things he has to take care of. But I'm confident he would be a person who could handle that."
Anthony has performed well in the past against the Rams. He led the Spiders with 31 points when the teams met in February, and scored 26 points in Richmond's 86-74 overtime victory last season over the No. 19 Rams.
The Spiders need Anthony to help carry the team when they face VCU's notorious "Havoc" defense, led by guards Briante Weber, who averages 3.6 steals per game, and Treveon Graham, who averages 15.4 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.
Games against VCU are ones Richmond always circles on its calendar, Mooney said, but this Thursday's game, given it being late in the season and Richmond's final home game,makes it more important than usual.
"It's as big as any game," Mooney said, "but I think they've all been big.
"We've tried to fight and scrap. Even though we played poorly our last two games, we feel like we have confidence and we have ability and we just need to concentrate on Thursday."
Contact reporter Jack Nicholson at firstname.lastname@example.org