The University of Richmond men’s basketball team rallied behind graduate forward Matt Grace on Sunday afternoon, in a fight until the end against the visiting Fordham University Rams. The Spiders defeated the Rams 68-58 behind Grace’s career-high 21 points on his 24th birthday.
The Spiders jumped to an 8-5 lead against the 18-5 Rams early in the first half, but the Rams did not overreact. The Rams continued fighting in what was a slow scrappy game, getting out to a 19-11 lead from a 9-0 Rams run.
With 9:36 left in the first half, Grace ended the run in its tracks shortly after with a made jumpshot. On the ensuing offensive possession, redshirt first-year guard Jason Nelson hit a 3-pointer to bring UR within five, his only points of the game.
Grace continued his efficient offensive play all over the floor, scoring seven out of the Spider’s final nine points of the half.
With 0:27 left in the opening half, senior forward Tyler Burton cut the Rams lead to 6 with a monstrous dunk. Fans in the packed Robins Center stood to their feet on Sunday afternoon, cheering on the Spiders, who were down 35-29 heading into halftime.
After the break, with quick baskets from senior center Neal Quinn and Burton, Spiders were down 37-35 with 17:20 to play in the second half and the home crowd cheering behind them. However, the Spiders could not find a rhythm early in the second half due to stoppages from fouls and turnovers.
With 12:12 left in the game, the Rams led UR 47-36 until graduate guard Andre Gustavson made a 3-pointer off of an assist from Grace, sparking a Spider run on their next possession.
Sophomore guard Marcus Randolph provided crucial bench help in the Spider’s march back, scoring four of his six points during the Spider's quick seven-point run. After a made basket by the Rams with 7:19 to play, Grace hit another 3-pointer to bring the Spiders within a point and the crowd back to its feet.
With 3:33 left in the second half, Grace went 2 for 2 from the stripe and gave the Spiders their first lead of the game, 55-53, since when they led the Rams 11-10 with 12:28 left in the first half. Grace shot an exceptional 9 of 10 from the free throw line, which were career highs in attempts and makes.
With 1:18 left and the Spiders leading by 5, Grace drove and dished out to Burton for a spot-up 3-pointer, extending the lead to eight, putting the Rams at an arm's length.
Burton ended the game with 18 points, shooting 5 of 7 from the floor and 7 of 10 from the line.
Grace, post-game, shared the Spider’s view on staying away from shooting the ball deep and remaining aggressive.
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“Sometimes you can't control shooting 5 for 24 but you can control playing hard on defense and things like rebounding, diving on the floor, toughness,” he said.
Additionally, Richmond held the Rams to 30% from the floor in the second half, compared to Fordham’s 52% in the first half, which was a key in getting back into the game.
UR head coach Chris Mooney made sure to tip his hat after the game to the home crowd that helped push this team.
“I'd like to say the crowd was tremendous, you know a sell-out Sunday at noon. We are so appreciative of the support,” Mooney said.
The Spiders moved to 12-12 on the season and 5-6 in the Atlantic 10 Conference. They will look to add to the win column at George Washington at 7 p.m. Jan. 8.
Contact sports writer Anderson Coll at email@example.com.
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