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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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