The University of Richmond women’s basketball team survived and advanced in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament with a 72-52 victory over the University of Pennsylvania Thursday night at the Robins Center.
The game was crucial for the women’s team development over the barren last couple of years. The Spiders have been absent from post season tournament play for nearly a decade, with their last selection to the WNIT coming in 2014 and their last participation in the NCAA tournament coming in 2005. Compared to the men’s team success recently, the women’s team has perennially fallen short.
Nonetheless, the victory over Penn was a huge step forward, especially for fourth year head coach Aaron Roussell.
“It’s been a build and it hasn’t been a linear one,” Roussell said after the game. “Since the beginning of January, we’ve played really well. To have it culminate after 30 games and play your best in a big moment and in a tournament game. To do that tonight is unbelievable huge for the next game and the next year.
The Spiders got on the board first with first-year forward Maggie Doogan draining a three from deep with eight minutes left in the first quarter. Doogan’s bucket set off a 11-point run for the Spiders, as Penn’s offense sputtered to materialize in the opening minutes. Richmond was able to build on long defensive positions and transition offense to build a 21-11 lead by the end of the first period.
In the second quarter, junior forward Addie Budnik, the spiders leading scorer on the season, continued to pour on the points, adding to her 11 from the first frame. Budnik ended the quarter with 17 points on 6 of 11 shooting. UR was able to keep Penn at bay and generate stops on most of the trips down the court. The Spiders led 40-24 into half time.
After the break, the Spiders didn’t look back, with UR leading Penn 59-38 after the third quarter.
With a 21-point cushion to start the fourth quarter, the starters who had carried the team to the ballooning lead came off the court, as the next game in the tournament began to look like a certainty.
When all was said and done, the Spiders won 75-52, with Budnik leading all scorers with 23 points on 8 of 13 shooting. Doogan, who led the Spiders in minutes played, finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
“We had really terrible practices the last two days,” Budnik said in the post-game press conference. “Coach was freaking out asking around if we were tired and we all were like ‘relax, we got this.’ I think a lot of that comes from playing really well. We’ve been clicking.
On the Robins Center floor after the game, the UR players mulled around on the court, talking to family and supporters as basketballs from the post-game shoot around and bounced in all directions. Even though it is a national basketball tournament, the WNIT only attracted a small collection of supporters and an even smaller group of students in the student section.
Yet, with this victory there was a sense that these sleepy nights after women’s games might be coming to an end. With a young team and tournament experience that will only grow, Thursday night was a huge step forward for the Spiders.
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UR will play Rhode Island in round two of the WNIT on March 20.
Contact sports writer Logan Jones-Wilkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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