The Collegian
Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Giant-killers are back: Spiders knock off No. 16 Dayton

Celebration at the Robins Center following the Spiders' 69-64 victory over Dayton University on Jan. 27. Courtesy of Richmond Athletics.
Celebration at the Robins Center following the Spiders' 69-64 victory over Dayton University on Jan. 27. Courtesy of Richmond Athletics.

Pandemonium ensued in the Robins Center following the University of Richmond men’s basketball team’s 69-64 victory over Dayton University on Jan. 27. 

As the final buzzer sounded, students stormed the court, celebrating the Spiders’ defeat of the No. 16 team in the country to stay undefeated in conference play.

“When I first started playing college basketball, if you would’ve told me I’d be at Richmond and I just knocked off the No. 16 team in the country, on our home floor… you never know,” graduate center Neal Quinn said after the game. “It’s just a matter of hard work and obviously the fan support tonight was amazing. I was kinda hoping they would storm the court tonight after a win, and I mean, that was an unreal experience.”

There’s just something about the Spiders and being giant-killers. In the program’s history, they have found a way time and again to upset highly ranked programs

Whether it was against eventual NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkey and Auburn University in the 1984 NCAA Tournament or even against the Bob Knight-led Indiana University Hoosiers in the 1988 NCAA Tournament, the Spiders have built quite the resumé over the years.  

And in this hotly contested Atlantic 10 matchup against the Flyers, they further proved that the giant-killer title is not going anywhere anytime soon. 

“We’ve had a number of [upsets] now and it’s something we’re really proud of, because of that reason mainly — you don’t get many opportunities,” UR Head Coach Chris Mooney said after the game. “So to be the kind of program that can be solid enough and good enough and when that opportunity comes can take advantage of it, that’s something we’re very proud of.”

UR now has the best conference record in the A-10, and the Spiders have yet to lose a game on their home court. It’s still January, and the Spiders are 15-5 and have won 10 straight games. 

The last time the Spiders had a chance to knock off an opponent of this stature was back in November of 2021, when UR upset the University of Kentucky, ranked tenth in the country at the time. 

Even though they play fellow A-10 opponent Dayton every season, this time around, they took down another top-25 team — a team that had won 13 straight games heading into play. 

Despite the win, the Spiders did not start the evening so hot from the floor. In fact, UR began the game shooting 0-for-11 from field goal range, which in the early going, did not bode well against one of the best teams in the nation. 

UR eventually found its groove offensively, but it was defense that gave the Spiders the edge through one half. Despite their shooting struggles, the Spiders held the Flyers to only 15 points scored over the first 20 minutes of regulation. 

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Beginning the game down 9-0, the Spiders had a tall task ahead of them, but by halftime, UR had inched ahead, leading Dayton 20-15. 

Throughout the game, and because of the Flyers’ foul trouble, the Spiders were able to limit Dayton star DaRon Holmes II’s offensive production. At halftime, Holmes had only scored 3 points, and he finished the game in single digits with 9. 

Graduate guard Jordan King also had a slow start to the game, but in the second half, his scoring came alive after scoring just 2 points in the first half. 

In the first half, the Spiders shot just 26.67% from the floor, whereas in the second half, the team’s scoring was more consistent. UR shot 52% from the floor to close out the last 20 minutes of play. 

Dayton was able to steal back the lead twice in the second half, but overall, UR was in control. With 3:22 to go in regulation, the Spiders led by 9 points, inching ever closer to this much sought-after win. 

With 12 seconds to go, UR’s lead was cut to just three points, but the Spiders shot well from the foul line down the stretch to ultimately take it to the Flyers and keep their streak alive. 

It was a total team effort from the Spiders, as all five starters scored in double figures. 

King led the way with 17 points; graduate forward Zae Bigelow and senior guard Dji Bailey each had 12 points; Quinn had 11 points, and senior guard DeLonnie Hunt had 10 points. 

Junior guard Jason Roche also chipped in a key 5 points off the bench, scoring a 3-pointer to give the Spiders their first lead of the night in the first half, and a layup to put UR up by five points heading into halftime. 

Coming into play, UR had lost 10 of its last 11 matchups against the Flyers; their only recent win came in the semifinal round of the 2022 A-10 Tournament en route to the Spiders’ eventual A-10 Championship and trip to the NCAA Tournament

After finishing their non-conference schedule 8-5, the Spiders have yet to lose against an A-10 opponent this season, a feat made all the more impressive considering UR was projected to finish 11th in the conference preseason rankings

UR’s next test will come away against Fordham University at 7 p.m. Jan. 31 before taking on crosstown rival Virginia Commonwealth University at the nearby Siegel Center Feb. 3. 

Contact sports editor Jimmy James at jimmy.james@richmond.edu

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