The University of Richmond Spiders defeated the University of Massachusetts Minutewomen 62-58 Sunday at the Robins Center, giving the Spiders their third win in a row.
With a two game winning streak alive and with conference heavyweights Dayton and VCU looming, Richmond entered the game ranked 11th in the Atlantic 10.
However, the Spiders began sluggishly, unable to stop UMass’s Vashnie Perry, who made three three-pointers in the first three minutes
Richmond then went on an 8-2 run to end the quarter, behind first-year guard Aniyah Carpenter’s two three-pointers. Carpenter provided a much-needed spark for the Spider offense. But the Minutewomen still held a 13-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
First-years have figured prominently in Richmond’s attack, head coach Michael Shafer said.
“Aniyah is becoming a really good basketball player and as a young kid," Shafer said. "I think she’s going to be very good in the future. I’m really happy to have Emma Squires back. Her versatility, her size, and her ability to score [are needed.]”
After UMass re-tied the game at 17, the Spiders went on a 10-2 run, fueled by the leadership of sophomore guard Alex Parson, who scored five of the 10 points during the run, forcing the visitors to call timeout with 4:34 to play in the quarter.
After the timeout, the Minutewomen began attacking the basket consistently and earning trips to the free-throw line, where they capitalized.
Though Richmond stretched the lead to as much as eight, UMass continued to counter the Spiders’ attack throughout the first twenty minutes.
With a strong start to the second half, the Spiders took an eight-point lead by working the ball into Jaide Hinds-Clarke and Daijia Ruffin in the paint. The Spiders forced UMass to take low-percentage shots late in the shot clock.
But the Minutewomen quickly answered with their long-range accuracy, as Richmond left their sharpshooters open. With 4:23 left in the quarter, a jumper from Philoxy knotted up the score at 38.
Undeterred, the Spiders responded with a 9-0 run to end the quarter, highlighted by a three-pointer from first-year Molly Mraz.
To begin the fourth quarter, there was little offense from either side. However, the quickness of Perry and Minutewomen’s hustle gave them second chance opportunities as they cut into Richmond’s lead, closing in with a 7-0 outburst.
Foul trouble plagued the Spiders, as junior Amy Duggan earned her third foul and Hinds-Clarke left the game briefly with her fourth. Leading by two, Richmond found a much-needed bucket from Parson, whose three-pointer gave the Spiders a 52-47 lead.
On the Spiders’ subsequent possession, a fast break opportunity led to a difficult shot for Carpenter, who was fouled aggressively. She lay injured on the court for several minutes with a potential non-shooting-hand injury, Shafer said. She did not return to the game.
Once play resumed, Ruffin and Parson padded the lead at the free throw line, making a combined five of six shots with less than three minutes remaining. However, Richmond lost yet another one of its stars with 2:34 left, as Hinds-Clarke fouled out of the game. She left the game with 15 points and 11 rebounds, her sixth double-double of the season.
"Rebounding has become fun," Hinds-Clarke said. "Right now, I’m really priding myself on going to get the ball, trying to do whatever I have to do to get the ball."
Richmond slowed the pace of the game, up 57-50 with 90 seconds remaining. But UMass’s Hailey Leidel refused to let the Spiders become too comfortable, hitting a three-pointer to make it a two-possession game with 1:10 left.
An unforced turnover gave the Minutewomen the ball, but they were unable to take advantage. Ruffin remained calm, gathering the rebound and sinking two subsequent foul shots to stretch the Spiders lead back to six with 53 seconds remaining.
"In the last few minutes of the game, we just had to realize that we needed to come together; we needed to get back," Hinds-Clarke said. "We started to play for ourselves a little bit, so [the Minutewomen] went on their run. We realized we needed to go on ours, just playing together."
After several opportunities at the line for both teams, UMass’s Genesis Rivera sunk a three-pointer to narrow Richmond’s lead to 60-58 with 30 seconds to go.
With 19 seconds remaining and down three points, UMass gained possession due to a replay review, but Rivera missed a potential game-tying three-pointer. Mraz secured the rebound and made one of two foul shots with eight seconds remaining to give the Spiders a 62-58 victory.
“The contribution that’s probably the least talked about is Molly Mraz," Shafer said. "Because she’s not necessarily scoring buckets; she’s defending the team’s best player. And she does it with a great deal of toughness and she fights and battles. “
In celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, the Spiders recognized the groundbreaking accomplishments of several women, including Becky Hammon, the first full-time assistant coach for a men’s professional team. Dozens of young girls watched eagerly from the arena seats, hoping to get a signed poster or picture after the game.
"Right now, we’re feeling pretty good," Hinds-Clarke said. "At the same time, we have to remember that this has been a journey. [During] these three wins, we’ve gained a lot of confidence as a team and individually. Going into Dayton, I think we’re excited for the challenge."
Richmond improves to 3-5 in conference and 6-15 overall. Massachusetts falls to 3-5 in conference, and 11-11 overall. On Wednesday, the Spiders travel to Dayton to face the Flyers, who are 5-2 in the Atlantic 10.
Contact sports writer Cassie Coughlan at firstname.lastname@example.org