The University of Richmond men’s basketball team defeated the University of Massachusetts 71-38 in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament March 7.
After losing their final three regular season games against Virginia Commonwealth University, Saint Joseph’s University and George Mason University, respectively, the defending A-10 champion Spiders traveled to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY and got off to a strong start against the Minutemen.
The last time the Spiders played UMass on Jan. 25, the Minutemen emerged victorious on their home court in Amherst, MA 85-76. This time around, the Spiders got their revenge and defeated UMass by 33 points.
Gameplay was back and forth through the first six minutes, and it showed in the score as it was 8-6 early, in favor of the Spiders.
However, UR gained momentum as their offense began to flow more with cutting and passing.
UMass got offensive rebounds in the first half but could not capitalize on their put-back attempts and did not shoot well from the floor. The Minutemen also committed frequent turnovers, not helping their case offensively. UMass totaled 20 turnovers in the game.
The Spiders carried a 31-18 lead into halftime.
Senior forward Tyler Burton, who was named to the Second Team All-A-10 before the game, made an impact on both sides of the floor throughout the game. In the first half, Burton had 19 points, outscoring UMass’s first half point total by himself.
In the second half, the Spiders opened up their lead in even greater fashion. At the 15:43 mark, the Spiders led by 22 points after going on an 11-0 run. The last five points of the run came from Burton and graduate forward Matt Grace, who dunked and hit a 3-pointer, respectively.
Later in the half, the Spiders went on another double-digit run, this time 12 consecutive points. With 5:12 to go in regulation, graduate forward Zae Bigelow hit a 3-pointer which put UR up 33 points, 58-25.
The Spiders finished the game ahead 71-38, the team’s largest win since their Dec. 10 game against Drake University. In that game, UR defeated the Bulldogs 82-52.
“I thought we came in and we were on every part of the game plan that we had discussed and did it at a high level with quite a bit of urgency,” UR head coach Peter Thomas said in the postgame press conference.
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Burton was taken out of the game at the 5:35 mark, allowing the Spiders to bring in substitutes. Burton finished with 28 points and six rebounds, his highest offensive output since UR’s game against Bucknell University Dec. 21, where he scored 29 points.
Other strong offensive performances included Grace, who finished with 13 points. Senior center Neal Quinn had six points and put on a rebounding clinic, grabbing 10 boards throughout the contest.
“It’s March,” Burton said after the game. “You gotta come out and you gotta play every game. This is win or go home so you gotta do what you gotta do to survive. Today we played well.”
Over the course of the game, the Spiders shot 46.6% from field goal range compared to the Minutemen, who shot just 23.8% from the field. UR also outscored UMass in the paint, 38-24.
UR’s next game is against George Mason, who the Spiders recently lost to by two points, 62-60, March 4. The Spiders also lost to the Patriots 62-58 Dec. 31. The two teams will play at the Barclays Center at 2 p.m. March 8.
GMU is seeded fifth in the tournament, whereas UR holds the 12-seed.
“Two tough battles, especially the one recently,” Burton said of UR’s matchups with GMU. “But, I said earlier, it’s hard to beat a team three times in one year, especially a team that’s as hungry as we are and as ready to play as we are.”
Contact sports editor Jimmy James at email@example.com.
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