With four seconds remaining and the Spiders carefully nursing a two point lead, T.J. Cline headed to the line and sunk two free throws – his 24th and 25th points of the night — which would ultimately be his last two in the Robins Center.
Cline’s free throws capped off an 87-83 second round victory for Richmond over the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, as well as a historically great three years of performances in front of the Robins Center crowd.
Cline and fellow senior ShawnDre’ Jones led the Spiders all night in a game that featured five ties and 12 lead changes.
While Richmond fell behind by as many as seven in the second half, the Spiders executed very well on both sides of the ball for the bulk of the game.
Richmond’s execution was particularly sharp in the first half. Oakland struggled mightily with defensive rotations and miscommunications, which allowed Richmond to carry out their offensive attack exactly according to plan. The Spiders scored 40 of their 43 first half points in the paint or on threes and had just one turnover.
Khwan Fore was vital to the Spiders’ offensive attack in the first half, scoring all 10 of his first half points from driving layups.
Richmond’s defense also forced seven Oakland turnovers in the first half and held them to just five free throw attempts. Oakland was able to stay in the game in large part because of three deep and contested three pointers from Nick Daniels and Martez Walker.
While it seemed the Spiders were primed to run away with the victory, Oakland began the second half on a 17-6 run to claim a four-point lead.
Richmond tried to force the ball down low several times to start the second half, but the length and size of Oakland thwarted Richmond’s low post based attack. The Spiders turned the ball over five times in the first six minutes of the half.
But Richmond’s veteran savviness and leadership allowed the Spiders to right the ship.
With the Spiders down six with 12:14 remaining, Cline found fellow senior Marshall Wood for the first of two consecutive Wood three-pointers.
As the Spiders’ offense began to tighten up with the game winding down, another senior leader, ShawnDre’ Jones, took over on offense. Jones scored six straight including a driving layup to reclaim the lead for good at 80-79 with 1:30 remaining.
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After several Oakland threats to reclaim the lead, Khwan Fore blocked a Martez Walker three point attempt with six seconds remaining which was followed by the game-sealing Cline free throws.
Cline exited the game with four seconds remaining to the thunderous cheers of 6,527 fans in the Robins Center.
The energy and appreciation was palpable as a tribute video for Richmond’s five graduating seniors played immediately following the victory. It was the perfect send off for Cline and Jones, Richmond’s 10th and 11th all-time leading scorers.
Richmond now advances to the quarterfinals of the NIT to play at TCU at 7 p.m. on Tuesday on ESPN2.
Contact sports writer Mike O'Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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