The Collegian
Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Spiders start conference play with loss against George Mason

<p>Graduate student Matt Grace shoots a three-pointer during the away game against George Mason on Dec. 31. Photo courtesy of Richmond Athletics.&nbsp;</p>

Graduate student Matt Grace shoots a three-pointer during the away game against George Mason on Dec. 31. Photo courtesy of Richmond Athletics. 

The University of Richmond men’s basketball team lost 62-58 against the George Mason University Patriots on Dec. 31 in the team’s first Atlantic 10 conference game. 

The first half proved to be evenly matched, as the Spiders and Patriots both scored 32 points, tying the game going into halftime. Throughout the game, there were eight lead changes and six ties.

After the Spiders did not find the bottom of the net until the 16:39 mark of the first half, senior forward Tyler Burton eventually hit a 3-pointer to break UR’s scoring drought and the Spiders were on their way into the scoring column.

Burton came out of the gates strong, scoring 10 of UR’s first 17 points. Graduate forward Matt Grace's first plays were strong, as he hit two 3-pointers and two foul shots for eight first-half points. 

Much to the Spiders’ chagrin, redshirt first-year guard Jason Nelson picked up two fouls in the first three minutes, which meant the team had to lean on its bench early in the game.

But, Nelson’s substitute, sophomore guard Marcus Randolph, played solid minutes and added seven points on three field goals in Nelson’s absence. 

In the second half, Burton picked up right where he left off, hitting a 3-pointer early out of halftime. Nelson also added four quick points to make up for not playing much in the first half as a result of his foul trouble. 

For the majority of the game, no team was truly able to take full control. 

The Spiders found themselves down by five points with just under seven minutes to play. But, Grace, who started the second half shooting one for five, hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Spiders a one-point lead with under five minutes to play. 

Despite the Spiders’ surge in momentum, the Patriots took control of the game in the final minutes with a 6-0 run.

With 56 seconds left in regulation, the Spiders were down by five points. 

Then, Burton cut the deficit to three with a layup, and the Spiders elected to foul with 37 seconds to go. 

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The Patriots missed the free throw, giving the Spiders another chance to try to tie the game. 

However, Burton had his 3-pointer blocked, and from there, GMU made it a two-possession game. The Spiders’ final efforts went by the wayside and the team lost.

Burton played the entire game and finished with 21 points and 6 rebounds — his fourth straight game with 20+ points. Grace, on the other hand, had 15 points and hit three 3-pointers. 

“It was just a tough one all around,” Burton said. “We were trying to be pretty physical. I think we did a pretty good job battling in the post and it just came down to just turnovers and the nitty gritty at the end.”

This loss breaks the Spiders’ two-game winning streak and puts UR’s record at 7-7 with one conference game under its belt. The Spiders will face GMU a second time in the team’s season finale at home on Mar. 4. 

“It’s hard to compete and play and win road games in this conference and I thought we did so many things great,” UR head coach Chris Mooney said after the game. “A lot of times it’s going to come down to making a few more shots and hopefully we can improve in that aspect. We’ve been a good shooting team. I feel like we are a good shooting team. So hopefully that’ll continue to show up in a positive way.”

UR’s next game is against George Washington University on Jan. 4 at 7 p.m. in the Robins Center.

“I’m really pleased with the effort and I think it bodes well for the future," Mooney said.

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

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