The Collegian
Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Spiders run Richmond in cross-town clash against VCU

Senior guard Grace Townshend (left) and sophomore guard Rachel Ullstrom in the game against VCU on Jan. 3. Courtesy of Richmond Athletics.
Senior guard Grace Townshend (left) and sophomore guard Rachel Ullstrom in the game against VCU on Jan. 3. Courtesy of Richmond Athletics.

As the Spiders dribbled the ball out with the final seconds ticking off the game clock, the smile on University of Richmond women’s basketball guard Grace Townsend’s face said it all.

In another chapter in the saga that is the cross-town rivalry between UR and Virginia Commonwealth University, the Spiders got the job done on their home floor, defeating the Rams 72-65 in a down-to-the-wire finish Jan. 3. 

In a city that tends to be dominated by the men’s basketball programs, in this outing, it was all about the women’s teams, and rightfully so. UR entered the game with an 11-3 record and VCU a 12-1 record, so it was a hotly contested Atlantic 10 matchup from the jump. 

The Rams got off to a quick start offensively. On the first play of the game, the Spiders turned the ball over and VCU started the game with a steal and a score. 

VCU went on a 12-2 run to open up play, putting the Spiders on their heels early. UR got into their groove, but the Spiders still had a deficit to overcome in order to fend off the Rams in their second conference game of the year. 

By the time the first quarter finished, the Spiders were down 23-13, as VCU’s scrappy defense was too much for UR in the early going. In the first period alone, the Rams scored 16 points off turnovers, which hindered the Spiders’ efforts in the first half. 

In the second quarter, the Spiders took away some of VCU’s momentum, as they outscored the Rams in the period and cut the deficit to five points by halftime, trailing 36-31. 

In the second half, the Spiders stayed in the game, but it was one step forward, two steps back for UR. Every time the Spiders got close to VCU on the scoreboard, the Rams would find a way to keep a lead to stay in front of UR. 

Down the stretch, though, the Spiders’ efforts were just enough to eventually inch ahead of the Rams. 

“It was a hard, team-fought effort, to be honest,” Townsend said in a postgame press conference. “We got down early, coming in at halftime we kind of fought our way back, but we still knew we still had to come back for it. We all knew it started with defense. When it came down to it, we needed stops.”

Sophomore forward Maggie Doogan hit a jumper to put the Spiders ahead by one point with 2:32 to go in the fourth quarter – the Spider’s first lead of the game. 

The Rams then hit a 3-pointer, making the score 65-63 in favor of VCU. Doogan tied it up soon after, and with 1:42 to play, it was 65-65, making way for a thrilling comeback for the Spiders.

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With 48 seconds to go, Townsend hit a dagger 3-pointer, her fifth of the game, to give UR a three-point lead. From there, it was the Spiders’ defense that came through and UR walked away with a seven-point victory. 

“What an incredible game,” UR Head Coach Aaron Roussell said in a postgame press conference. “It felt like, as a coach, you don’t always feel the atmosphere, you don’t know what’s going on. But to have two local teams, in town, playing as well as both of us are right now, to have a crowd, some high school teams out there and just a great back-and-forth game.”

Townsend was the Spiders’ leading scorer, finishing with 21 points, as well as 7 assists and 5 rebounds to contribute to an all-around performance. 

Sophomore guard Rachel Ullstrom had a strong game off the bench, scoring 20 points, and keeping the Spiders within striking distance all throughout the contest. 

Doogan and senior forward Addie Budnik were UR’s two other double-figure scorers, chipping in 10 and 12 points, respectively. Doogan also had 8 rebounds and 7 assists, including some important back-door cut passes to Ullstrom down the stretch. 

This is the Spiders’ third-straight win and gives UR a 12-3 record with two conference games under its belt. 

UR’s next game is away against another A-10 stalwart, 13-1 Saint Joseph’s University, at 2 p.m. Jan. 6. 

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

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