It’s mid-January and the University of Richmond women’s basketball team has just won its fifth-straight Atlantic 10 conference game.
The Spiders are now 15-3 overall, 5-0 in conference play and sit atop the A-10 conference standings. UR is also undefeated at the Robins Center, winning against the University of Rhode Island 71-67 Jan. 14.
The Rams, who the Spiders lost to twice last season – by 16 points in the regular season and by 10 points in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament – brought an 11-6 record into the game and a 3-1 conference record, making for fierce competition from the start.
The game started evenly matched, as through one quarter, the score showed 18-15 in favor of UR.
Junior guard Katie Hill proved to be the Spiders’ backbone on the offensive end early, scoring 8 points in the first quarter. Three of those points came from an and-one play she completed at the 7:15 mark to help UR establish itself on the scoreboard.
Senior guard Grace Townsend was also a force for the Spiders, scoring 7 points in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Hill had already reached double figures. Eventually, the Spiders were able to jump out to a double-digit lead with 3:50 to go in the first half. Townsend had 15 first-half points, while Hill had 10. At halftime, the Spiders led the Rams by 6 points, 36-30.
Sophomore guard Rachel Ullstrom, who is usually one of the Spiders’ highest scorers, did not score in the game. But what she lacked on the offensive end, she made up for on the boards, grabbing 7 throughout the contest.
In the second half, UR held on to its lead, but down the stretch, the Rams stayed in the game with their scrappy defense. The Spiders tallied 23 turnovers as a team, showing that despite the win, their efforts were sloppy at times. With 8:30 to go in regulation, the Spiders led by 11 points.
A shining moment for Townsend came at the 5:04 mark, when she made a layup and reached 1,000 points scored for her UR career.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all the people around me and this great team and staff that we have,” Townsend said. “So I just thank them for being there. It’s really a huge accomplishment, I’m really excited for it, but I also know this isn’t the end. We have a long season ahead of us, so focusing on that.”
A 9-point lead with just over five minutes to play did not guarantee a win for the Spiders, however. The team still had to work for the victory in the closing minutes.
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Things got a little close for comfort down the stretch, as the Rams cut the deficit to two points. This forced the Spiders to win the game at the free throw line, a task they were ultimately able to accomplish, winning 71-67.
“Just really proud of our kids because we fought through when things didn’t always go our way today and really hung on and made our free throws at the end,” UR Head Coach Aaron Roussell said in a postgame press conference.
Townsend finished the game with 26 points and 7 rebounds. Hill had 19 points and 7 rebounds, and sophomore forward Maggie Doogan had 16 points and 8 rebounds.
“I think we did a better job rebounding today against [URI’s] bigs and that was a big emphasis for us to make sure that they weren’t getting second and third chance opportunities,” Hill said. “And I think we really executed and locked in on that.”
UR’s next game is away against Davidson College at 7 p.m. Jan. 17, where the Spiders will look to defend their undefeated conference record and six-game win streak.
“Chasing a championship, you talk about that in the offseason,” Roussell said. “Once you get into the season, it’s improving and it’s going to get that next game, and I think our kids are pretty laser-focused on that.”
Contact sports editor Jimmy James at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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