The University of Richmond men’s basketball team lost to George Mason University 62-57 in the second round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament in Brooklyn, NY March 8.
After a dominant win over the University of Massachusetts Minutemen in round one of the tournament, the Spiders’ efforts were not enough down the stretch in round two, handing the lead back to the Patriots late and putting an end to their 2022-2023 season.
The Patriots were successful against the Spiders in each of the team’s matchups this season. Not only did GMU win in the tournament against UR, but the Patriots defeated the Spiders twice in two close games during the regular season, both decided by four or fewer points.
The game started off evenly matched as the Spiders and Patriots traded buckets to open up gameplay. Through the halfway mark of the first half, the score showed 15-14 with a slight edge for GMU.
Senior center Neal Quinn executed early offensively for the Spiders as he had 12 points in the first half. His final first half bucket was a fadeaway jump shot late in the shot clock which put the Spiders up 25-19 with 1:44 to go in half one.
At halftime, the Spiders had the edge, 25-21, over the fifth-seeded Patriots.
In the second half, momentum appeared to shift in UR’s direction as with 15:58 to go in regulation, the Spiders found themselves up by eight points, 33-25. This was UR’s largest lead of the game.
However, what followed was a 13-0 run by the Patriots, giving GMU a five-point lead with 11:20 to go in the game. UR eventually retook the lead with 7:38 to go but the rest of the game proved back and forth.
With just over two minutes to go, the Spiders held a four-point lead, but a GMU jumper and 3-pointer put the Patriots ahead late. UR had a chance to retake the lead but a missed 3-pointer from graduate forward Matt Grace forced the Spiders to foul and send GMU to the line.
“We wanted [Grace] to take the only shot that he wanted to take and the floor was his and he took it with confidence,” senior forward Tyler Burton said in the postgame press conference.
Another opportunity for the Spiders presented itself with 17 seconds remaining as the Spiders were only down three points, but a late turnover from redshirt first-year Jason Nelson threw away the Spiders’ hopes of tying up the game.
The Patriots won 62-57 and will advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament against Saint Louis University.
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“Certainly didn’t make a couple of key shots down the stretch when [GMU] did and that probably was the difference in the end,” UR interim head coach Peter Thomas said. “But we knew it was gonna be tight and a back-and-forth game and I thought our guys did a great job giving ourselves a chance to win there.”
Senior forward Tyler Burton, who played all 40 minutes, finished the day with 23 points despite a slow first half. In the game, Burton went 11 for 11 at the free throw line.
Quinn finished with 17 points after having his way in the paint in the first half. Grace chipped in seven points.
UR finished the season, both regular season and A-10 Tournament, with a 15-18 overall record. Last year, the Spiders finished 24-13 and won the tournament as a six seed, giving the program its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2011.
Looking back on the Spiders’ season, it was one of ups and downs as UR had both stretches of wins and stretches of losses. UR suffered eight losses in the regular season decided by four or fewer points.
The Spiders’ home and away records were flipped as UR was 12-4 at the Robins Center and 1-11 away. UR began conference play winning four out of its first six games against A-10 opponents, but the Spiders’ conference record was 7-11 when all set and done.
Moving forward, the program will lose graduate players, guard Andre Gustavson and Grace as their eligibility will run out after this season. Both played integral parts in the Spiders’ A-10 Tournament run last season.
Burton, who declared for the NBA Draft after last season and ultimately decided to return to UR, will have to decide whether he will use his last year of eligibility or declare for the draft again.
“I’m not sure,” Burton said, speaking about his future plans. “I’m just gonna reflect on my time, my four years at Richmond so far and the decision will come at a later time.”
As for Thomas, he will hand the head coaching reins back to Head Coach Chris Mooney once Mooney returns from his recovery period. Mooney had heart surgery in late February, forcing him away from the team down the stretch.
“It’s certainly been an honor to be the interim head coach for my alma mater,” Thomas said. “Not the way I would’ve wanted it to come but certainly a dream situation to be leading University of Richmond’s men’s basketball team.”
Contact sports editor Jimmy James at email@example.com.
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