Although the Robins Center wasn’t as rowdy as usual on Saturday, the Spiders were able to generate their energy on the defensive end and pull off a win over the Howard University Bison.
Richmond’s bench accounted for 22 points in the 54-41 win. The leading scorer, and only Richmond player to score in double figures, was sophomore guard ShawnDre’ Jones, who scored 11 points off the bench.
Coach Chris Mooney changed the lineup for last night’s game. Though Jones was taken out of the starting lineup, he prepared to play the same as he usually would.
“I just wanted to still come out and play confident,” Jones said. “If me coming off the bench helps my team then that’s what I will do.”
Junior forward Deion Taylor started in Jones’ place and was a major contributor, playing with purpose on both ends of the floor.
Mooney was pleased with Taylor’s performance. “Besides the two turnovers Deion had in the second half, I thought he played a really good game and was aggressive,” Mooney said.
Taylor has been an on-and-off starter for the past few years, so he is used to constant lineup changes, he said. “It doesn’t matter to me whether I start or come off the bench,” Taylor said. “I’m always coming with the same energy.”
Taylor was able to spark the Spider offense from the first possession and be an aggressor on the defensive end. He scored eight points and pulled down seven rebounds.
The Spiders have focused on improving their rebounding game in practice. Although they have struggled on the boards in recent games, the team grabbed an impressive 32 rebounds last night.
“We’ve really paid a lot of attention to it,” Mooney said. “We’ve done a lot of drills where rebounding is more emphasized. You know, traditionally we haven’t been a good rebounding team but we’ve been so good in a lot of other areas, our shooting and turning teams over.
“I think we need to improve in everything, but we should be a better rebounding team this year and tonight was a fairly positive step in that direction.”
Richmond out-shot Howard in the first half, shooting 50 percent compared with Howard’s 42.9 percent. In the final minutes before halftime, Howard closed in on Richmond’s lead but was unable to respond to the defensive pressure the Spiders applied in the second half.
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As the game continued, the Spider offense became sluggish and choppy. It was their defensive effort that made the difference in last night’s game, as they held Howard to 18 points in the second half.
“We stopped moving the ball as effective as we did in the first half and in the first 20 minutes,” Jones said. “Other than that we were just going to have to make shots, and we tried to be a little bit more selective, we should’ve just kept playing like we were the whole game.”
A zone defense that wasn’t extended forced Richmond to be more offensively passive along the perimeter than Mooney said he had wanted his team to be.
Howard shot 17.4 percent from the field in the second half and did not make a three-point shot. Richmond was able to buckle down defensively and dictate what shots Howard took.
“Defensively we focused on talking this week and being aggressive and physical this week, and that is what we were trying to display,” Jones said.
Mooney thought his team was focused defensively. “I thought we were kind of really zeroed in to the scouting report and made sure they didn’t get anything easy or quick,” he said.
Turnovers were another bright spot for Richmond. The Spiders scored 21 points off of the 21 turnovers Howard had throughout the course of the game.
“I thought we played very well defensively,” Mooney said. “Not only did we hold them to a great defensive field goal percentage, but we turned them over a lot. They’re a turnover-prone team and I was glad we were able to capitalize on some of them.”
After a week of exams, the team used practice time as a way to focus in on what they needed to improve on and take a break from their studies.
“It’s very tough to focus during finals week,” Jones said. “We try to still get in here and get some shots up and still focus on our basketball, but academics are very important especially at the University of Richmond, so it’s very tough.”
Mooney agreed that practice during finals week could be a challenge. “Finals week is a challenge especially at Richmond and, you know, there are a lot of papers to do and tests to take,” Mooney said.
“Really, [basketball] serves a good purpose. We get the guys out of their study, out of the library, whatever it is and get them some sweating and get them distracted, but then also trying to focus. So you know, this is a big challenge and hopefully we can continue to play well on our next one,” Mooney said.
The Spiders will be back in the Robins Center at 7 p.m. on Thursday for their next game against University of South Alabama.
Contact reporter Olivia Healy at email@example.com
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