Coming off a disappointing closing minutes effort against the University at Buffalo Dec. 21, it seemed the University of Richmond men’s basketball team’s goal heading into its matchup against Lafayette College was to not let its lead slip away in the final minutes.
The Spiders, who led by as many as 20 points against the Bills, ultimately won by only six points, 72-66, which was “inexcusable,” according to graduate center Neal Quinn, who said in the postgame press conference that Spiders’ efforts could not be repeated.
Fortunately for the Spiders, carrying the lead proved within reach from the jump against Lafayette, as the team walked away with a 59-38 win over the Leopards Dec. 30 to close out non-conference play.
The score was tight in the opening minutes, but by the time the first media break rolled around at the 13:30 mark, the Spiders had jumped out to a 15-6 lead, showing it didn’t take long for UR to establish themselves on the offensive end.
UR’s early scoring was sparked by graduate forward Zae Bigelow, who had a strong start to the game, hitting a pair of 3-pointers early on. First-year guard Mikkel Tyne also chipped in 5 early points to help the Spiders’ efforts against the Leopards.
Back-to-back baskets from senior guard Dji Bailey gave the Spiders a 27-13 lead with 6:37 to go in the first half, and by the time halftime rolled around, UR led Lafayette by 27 points.
A play that put a stamp on a dominant first half came with 1.6 seconds to go, when graduate guard Jordan King heaved a pass down court to Bailey, who caught it and laid it in just before the buzzer sounded to give the Spiders a 44-17 lead.
Over the course of the first 20 minutes of gameplay, the Leopards shot just 24 percent from field goal range and shot 0-for-12 from 3-point range. The Spiders, on the other hand, went 8-for-18 from 3-point range and shot 47.37 percent from the field.
“Certainly proud of our defense today,” UR Head Coach Chris Mooney said in a postgame press conference. “I thought the entire game, we made it difficult for [Lafayette] to score, rebounded defensively well, created some turnovers, so some positives there.”
By the time the second half arrived, it looked as if the Spiders were en route to a substantial victory, as Bailey began the half with a steal and a breakaway layup to give the Spiders a 46-17 lead.
And while UR did eventually secure its eighth win of the season and seventh-straight win at the Robins Center, the Spiders’ offensive success did not translate to the final 20 minutes of gameplay as seamlessly as it did in the first half.
In the second half, Lafayette outscored UR 21-15. The Spiders made just 6 of the 23 shots they attempted and only shot 1-for-9 from 3-point range, as the team struggled with its offensive production down the stretch. Still, though, the Spiders emerged victorious, ending non-conference play with an 8-5 record.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
“I mean, I think our non-conference play was amazing,” Bigelow said. “We got a plethora of teams, teams that play fast, teams that play slow, teams with pack defense, teams that press. We got it all and I think we’re gonna also see it all in conference play. And it’ll all lay over and we’ll all learn from our mistakes in non-conference play, and hopefully correct them in conference play.”
On a night where two of UR’s more reliable scorers, Quinn and King, did not have as much success in the scoring column as usual, other Spiders stepped up, with three different players scoring double figures.
Bigelow led the way with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Tyne and Bailey each finished with 10 points, respectively.
Other players stepped up in terms of playing time as well, as Quinn was ill, sophomore center Mike Walz was battling a groin injury and first-year forward Ryan Soulis was out with a foot injury. Redshirt sophomore forward Aidan Noyes also went down with an ankle injury during the game. This left the Spiders without a big man for much of the second half.
“Definitely out of sorts, but we did keep defending and ended up with not a beautiful, but a win. certainly, today,” Mooney said.
UR begins its conference schedule against St. Bonaventure University at home at 4 p.m. Jan. 6. This time around, the Spiders will look to improve upon their 7-11 conference record and second-round exit in the Atlantic 10 Tournament last season.
Contact sports editor Jimmy James at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support independent student media
You can make a tax-deductible donation by clicking the button below, which takes you to our secure PayPal account. The page is set up to receive contributions in whatever amount you designate. We look forward to using the money we raise to further our mission of providing honest and accurate information to students, faculty, staff, alumni and others in the general public.Donate Now