An impressive defensive performance by the Richmond Spiders men’s basketball team led to a win over the La Salle Explorers, 75-57.
In their third game without their leading scorer redshirt junior Blake Francis (averaging 17.6 points per game), the Spiders managed to defeat another conference opponent in La Salle with an all-around team effort and outstanding defensive play. The Spiders had four players score in double digits, and 34 total points in the paint. The team also received 31 points from its bench.
On the defensive side, the team managed to keep LaSalle’s leading scorer senior Isiah Deas (averaging 11.9 points per game) from scoring much, holding him to just three points. The Explorers were also held to 32.8% shooting from the field by the Spiders.
The Spiders' offense was not slowed down with the loss of its leading scorer, however, opening up the game on a 16-3 run and finishing with 75 points. The team has been averaging 80 points in its last three games, with its 97-point effort against George Mason being Richmond’s most points scored in a regulation game since 2017.
Redshirt junior Grant Golden led the Spiders in scoring with 15 points while only playing 16 minutes.
“It’s a huge loss losing your leading scorer no matter who it is but I think it was just a next up mentality,” Golden said after the win. “We have the ability to make up for that scoring. I think a lot of it comes down to what we do on the defensive end and how we rebound and we did a good job at those two things tonight.”
The Spiders' Head Coach Chris Mooney was able to limit Golden’s minutes in large part due to the great play of first-year Tyler Burton. Burton was one rebound short of a double-double with 14 points and 9 rebounds. His 14 point effort breaks his career-high of 12, which had just been set last game against George Mason.
“I’m just gonna take it one day at a time,” Burton said after a career night, “just put in the work I’ve been putting in, just staying focused, listening to my coaches and listening to my great teammates.”
The Spiders' offense also attacked the basket hard, resulting in a good number of fouls being committed by La Salle. In the second half, the Spiders were already in the double bonus with 12:05 left to play in the game.
Junior Jacob Gilyard played a big role in this through his attacking play-style, which consists of driving hard to the basket and not being afraid to go after loose balls. Gilyard finished with a team-high seven free throws attempted, making five of them.
Gilyard currently leads the conference in free-throw percentage at 88.7%, and as a team, the Spiders are shooting 81% from the free-throw line, second in the nation only behind Pepperdine.
Everything wasn’t perfect on the offensive side of the ball for the Spiders, however, as the team finished with 20 turnovers. Gilyard was tied for the most turnovers on the team with four.
Despite his offensive woes, Gilyard still managed to finish with 10 points and five assists. His five assists were enough to put him ahead of Carlos Cueto for the fifth-most assists in Richmond history with 397. The assist came late in the second half with a nice bounce pass that led to a Tyler Burton dunk which put the Spiders up 71-55.
The Spiders move to a comfortable 15-4 (5-1 in conference play) going into two of their biggest games of the season against No. 7 Dayton and VCU. Richmond will take on No. 7 Dayton at home this upcoming Saturday. Three days later, the team will take on rival VCU at the Siegel Center.
“Dayton, they’re tremendous offensively,” Mooney said about the team’s upcoming matchup. “They seem to be great at everything so playing a good defensive game and holding our own on the backboard I think that does give us a little bit of sense of confidence moving forward that we can compete and that we can play well Saturday.”
The Richmond Spiders will tip-off against the No. 7 Dayton Flyers this Saturday at 6 p.m.
Contact sports writer Krystian Hajduczka at firstname.lastname@example.org