After a two week hiatus because of COVID-19 protocols, the University of Richmond basketball team was back in action Saturday, Jan. 23 against La Salle University. The Spiders fell short 78-84, giving them their second conference loss of the season.
Early on, the Spiders showed no signs of rust as senior guard Blake Francis knocked down several three-pointers. In addition, sophomore Tyler Burton attacked the basket and was able to get to the free-throw line. This helped the Spiders jump to a seven-point lead in the opening minutes.
La Salle remained poised, however, and was able to find easy baskets in the paint. This aggressive paint play also led the Spiders to collapse defensively towards the basket, allowing for La Salle to find and make open perimeter shots. La Salle sophomore guard Sherif Kenney led the offensive attack, scoring 10 points on 100% shooting in the first half. As a team, La Salle finished the first half shooting 55% from the three-point line.
In the final five minutes of the first half, the Spiders shot 36% from the field, allowing La Salle to cut the Spider lead to just one, 40-39, at halftime.
La Salle started the second half making six out of their first seven shots. The team also increased its defensive pressure through a zone defense, causing three early turnovers for the Spiders. One of the most effective ways to break down a zone defense is to make perimeter shots. Yet, the Spiders' shooting slump continued into the second half as they missed their first eight three-point attempts.
“You are usually hoping to shoot teams out of that zone,” senior forward Grant Golden said after the loss. “We haven’t really made shots all year. We got to start grinding it out and get some of those open shots to fall for us.”
Even though La Salle was able to pull to a seven-point lead, the Spiders began to attack the zone defense, playing more aggressively on the offensive end. Golden found several easy shots right by the basket and was able to help the Spiders cut the lead down to 60-61 with five minutes left.
“I thought Grant did a really good job being the guy around the basket finishing or finding guys along the baseline,” head men’s basketball coach Chris Mooney said.
However, the Spiders lacked defensive effort and were unable to get stops down the stretch as La Salle shot 61% from the field in the second half, pulling out the 78-84 win.
Mooney addressed the two-week layoff and the possible effect it had on the game after the loss.
“We weren’t as good on defensive as we were before the layoff,” Mooney said. “We were slow to the ball and slow reacting.”
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all collegiate athletics, Mooney is not letting the recent layoff justify the team's disappointing loss.
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“There’s no excuse," Mooney said. "This was the hand we were dealt."
The Spiders look to get back into the win column on Tuesday with an away game against Saint Joseph’s University.
Contact sports writer Henry Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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