The Collegian
Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Spiders win second straight game to close out non-conference play

<p>Men's basketball team during game against Coppin State on Dec. 28 at the Robins Center. Media courtesy of Richmond Athletics.&nbsp;</p>

Men's basketball team during game against Coppin State on Dec. 28 at the Robins Center. Media courtesy of Richmond Athletics. 

The University of Richmond men’s basketball team defeated Coppin State University at home 83-65 on Dec. 28 following a break in the schedule for the holidays. 

UR started the game making three baskets, which put the Spiders ahead 8-0. However, by the 10:17 mark of the first half, Coppin State fought back and led UR 17-15. 

The rest of the first half had several lead changes. At halftime, the Spiders led the Eagles 40-38, despite UR’s fast start. 

Coming out of halftime, though, the momentum swung in the Spiders’ favor. UR came out of the gates strong with a 5-0 run to start the second half.  

While the Eagles kept the deficit within reach for the first few minutes of the second half, UR eventually pulled away, backed by the team’s post-halftime shooting percentage of 53.33%. The Spiders led by as many as 21 points and were able to secure a victory six days after the team’s previous win against Bucknell University.

UR head coach Chris Mooney said in the postgame press conference that he was pleased with the team’s second half. 

“I thought that we were better defensively in the second half and I thought we were able to just be more assertive on our defense,” Mooney said. “On offense, we moved the ball well in both halves, maybe shot a little bit better in the second half, but I thought we moved the ball well the entire game.”

Senior forward and reigning Atlantic 10 conference player of the week Tyler Burton scored 20 points and grabbed eight boards. Senior center Neal Quinn had 14 points to go along with seven assists.  

Off the bench, sophomore guard Jason Roche shot 50% from three and 100% from the free-throw line, putting up 16 points for the Spiders. 

“Well, he’s far more than a shooter,” Mooney said of Roche after the game. “I mean he’s a great shooter and probably he changes things more than anybody we’ve had, it’s just in terms of when he goes in and the awareness of him and how the court then feels because of his shooting ability.”

In just 13 games with the Spiders thus far, Roche, a transfer player from The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, has already made 30 3-point shots. 

“I think that this year I’ve gotten a lot easier shots,” Roche said in the postgame press conference. “I think the volume is down a little bit, but the quality has gone up. I think that I’ve been able to set my feet a little bit easier, a lot more standstill shots instead of one-dribble transition or one-dribble on-the-move shots.”

This win brings the Spiders’ record to 7-6 on the season. Coppin State was UR’s last non-conference opponent, as conference play begins in the team’s next game on Dec. 31. 

Looking back, overall, UR’s non-conference schedule proved up and down. 

The Spiders started the season with two wins at home against the Virginia Military Institute and the University of Northern Iowa. The team then traveled to South Carolina to face the College of Charleston, where the Spiders lost in overtime by two points. 

After that, the Spiders lost by three points in another close game to Wichita State University, bringing UR’s record to 2-2 early in the season.

Next came the Empire Classic Tournament in Brooklyn, New York, where the Spiders placed third out of the four teams that competed. UR lost in overtime to Syracuse University on the first day by three points and then won the next day against Temple University 61-49. 

At that point, UR hoisted a 3-3 record heading into Thanksgiving. 

A week after the Empire Classic Tournament, the Spiders traveled to Ohio to face Toledo University. UR lost 90-67 despite only trailing by two points at halftime. Then came another loss away against the College of William and Mary. The Spiders lost by a small margin as the Tribe defeated the Spiders 58-57. 

After those two losses, UR bounced back with back-to-back wins at home. First, the Spiders defeated Drake University handily, 82-52, and then took care of business in a similar fashion against Fairleigh Dickinson University, 77-48. 

UR carried a 5-5 record into its matchup against Clemson University in the Greenville Winter Invitational. However, the team would leave South Carolina 5-6 on the season, as a tough 85-57 loss ensued.

But, with a win against Bucknell before the break and now a win after against Coppin State, UR finishes its non-conference play with one more win than its six losses. 

“Obviously, every team would love to have a couple [of] non-league games back; we’d love to have a couple,” Mooney said. “But I do think we’ve practiced really, really well. I think at times we’ve played great, high-level defense, at times we’ve played very great, high-level offense. And so, I think as time goes on and we’re out there more and more, I think we have a chance to be a good team — a really good team.” 

UR’s next game is on Dec. 31 at 2 p.m. at George Mason University. 

Contact sports editor Jimmy James at jimmy.james@richmond.edu.