The Collegian
Saturday, April 13, 2024

Spiders steal the victory against the Charlotte 49ers in defensive spectacle

Forward Isaiah Bigelow during the Dec. 16 game against UNC Charlotte. Photo courtesy of Richmond Athletics.
Forward Isaiah Bigelow during the Dec. 16 game against UNC Charlotte. Photo courtesy of Richmond Athletics.

The University of Richmond Spiders men’s basketball team, who came in with a balanced 5-5 record, defeated the University of North Carolina at Charlotte 49ers 64-56 at the Robins Center this past Saturday. 

Coming off an 87-76 loss against the University of Florida Gators on Dec. 9, the Spiders were eager to bounce back.

The game opened with a burst of energy as senior guard Dji Bailey delivered a baseline two-handed slam at 19:10. Graduate forward Zae Bigelow followed suit with an and-one layup at 18:28 and then electrified the crowd with a tomahawk dunk over the 49ers' center at 15:00. Despite graduate guard Jordan King's stepback elbow jumper at 12:30, the Spiders trailed 12-10, reflecting the game's slow, defensively focused pace.

Both teams struggled offensively in the early going, with the 49ers and Spiders shooting 30% and 38% from the field respectively. Bigelow's emphatic block at 6:15 reinvigorated the crowd, but the Spiders still found themselves down 25-17. Their woes continued as they shot 1-for-4 from the free-throw line and 0-for-8 from 3-point range.

However, the tide began to turn as first-year guard Mikkel Tyne's up-and-under finger-roll layup at 2:45 and Bailey's fastbreak steal and thunderous slam at 1:30 cut the deficit to 25-23. Subsequently, a contested layup from Tyne tied the game, and King's fastbreak layup immediately after gave the Spiders a 27-25 lead. Graduate center Neal Quinn's two-handed slam off Tyne's assist closed the half with the Spiders leading 29-25, capping a remarkable 15-0 run.

Despite not hitting a single 3-pointer, the Spiders dominated the paint, scoring 24 of their 29 points inside. Quinn led the scoring with 7 points in a half characterized by tough defense and minimal scoring.

The Spiders maintained their momentum into the second half, starting with Bigelow's powerful two-handed slam. King's wide-open 3-pointer at 18:45 broke the 3-point drought, followed by successful 3-pointers from Quinn and junior guard Jason Roche.

As the game progressed, Bigelow's smooth one-legged fadeaway at 8:50 and Bailey's elusive reverse layup at 8:20 kept the Spiders ahead. With 3:18 left, the score stood at 51-45 in favor of the Spiders, who capitalized on the 49ers' 12 turnovers by scoring 17 points off turnovers.

Bailey's steal and euro step layup at 1:35 extended the lead to 57-48. Despite a late push from the 49ers, the Spiders held on for a 64-56 victory.

King led the game with 14 points, while Bailey's defensive prowess shone through with a game-high 4 steals.

In the postgame press conference, Bailey attributed his defensive success to his high school days.

“Defense has always just been a pride thing,” Bailey said “I always took pride in defense coming from high school; doing it now just making an impact on the floor. I think it’s just starting to show now.”

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UR Head Coach Chris Mooney praised the team's defensive effort, particularly highlighting Bailey's performance. 

“I thought we were just terrific defensively, and I thought Dji Bailey played a great game,” Mooney said “Looking forward to Buffalo on Thursday.”

With this win, the Spiders improve their record to 6-5 and look ahead with confidence as they prepare to take on the University of Buffalo Bulls at the Robins Center at 7 p.m. on Dec. 21.

Contact sports writer Waleed Said at waleed.said@richmond.edu.

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