Despite a valiant effort Sunday by the Richmond Spiders to stay close with the Rhode Island Rams, the Spiders fell short in the final four minutes and could not complete their comeback.
Richmond coach Chris Mooney was proud of his players in the last three minutes for how they came back, even though they eventually lost 79-74.
“I thought it was a very competitive game, obviously a very physical game with a lot of free throws and, you know, played better by Rhode Island,” Mooney said. “I think missing free throws in the first half and just not playing a good, clean first half really, really hurt us and put us in a hole. Not a gigantic hole, but a hole big enough that we weren’t able to overcome.”
Before the first media timeout, the Spiders trailed by eight points and struggled to respond to the physicality that the Rams enforced on both ends of the court. The game remained physical; there were 74 foul shots taken by the teams.
Terry Allen scored 19 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked two shots before fouling out. Allen was crafty around the rim all afternoon, but was unable to get his shots to go in consistently. Sophomore forward T.J. Cline added 13 points and five rebounds.
Senior guard Kendall Anthony, who led the Spiders, said what hurt the team in the first half was the inability to knock down foul shots. “We’ve got to shoot better from the line if we want to win games, so that’s one thing we really have to work on,” he said.
Of Anthony’s 28 points, 22 came in the second half. Even more impressive, 12 of his points were in the final three minutes of the game when he began to attack and finish around the rim, as well as hit foul shots.
“I just saw my team getting down, so I felt I had to be more aggressive, attack more,” Anthony said. “And in the last 15 minutes I just tried to keep attacking, keep the pace going and make sure we got to the paint and ran and got to the line.”
Richmond, which thrives on 3-pointers, made just two against Rhode Island. Rams coach Dan Hurley said that in preparing to take on the Spiders, they focused on taking away the 3-point shot.
“Our goal was to keep them under 25 percent for the game from three and to hold them to less than four, and so obviously them only making two was the difference in the game,” Hurley said.
Anthony said that Rhode Island’s aggressive defensive took away the 3-point shot for the Spiders and forced their shot selection to inside the arc. “We didn’t have open shots like we usually do, so credit to them for running us off the 3-point line,” he said.
Mooney said he would have liked his team to shoot some more threes, but he also said he preferred his team not rely on the 3-point shot.
At halftime, the Rams led by nine, although the deficit seemed much larger. The Spider offense was stagnant and the pressure from the Rams made it difficult to penetrate the lanes, especially when their defense was set.
Sophomore guard Josh Jones came into the game in the second half and drilled a clutch 3-pointer after the under-12 minute media timeout to cut the Ram lead to just two points. It felt as if the Spiders had positioned themselves for a comeback.
But Rhode Island guard E.C. Matthews responded with two 3-pointers of his own in just one minute to extend to the Rams’ lead to 11 with about four minutes left to play.
In those final four minutes, the Spiders outscored the Rams 20-14, but it was not enough to win the game.
Junior forward Alonzo Nelson-Ododa was helped off the court by trainers after a collision under the basket with multiple Rhode Island players. The presence of the 6-foot-9-inch center was certainly missed, as the Rams out-rebounded the Spiders by 15.
“I think Alonzo is certainly a big presence defensively, a good rebounder, so that was certainly a factor in the game,” Mooney said. “But the other guys have to step up and it felt in the second half we were able to create a turnover or they got an offensive rebound. To be honest that’s what it felt like on our bench.”
Yesterday’s loss for the Spiders makes it their ninth loss of the season by fewer than ten points.
The Spiders (12-11) will face the Fordham Rams (6-15) Feb. 11 for the first time this season at 7 p.m. in the Robins Center.