Thursday night’s classic, an 86-74 Spider victory, was one that those in attendance and those watching and listening around the region will likely never forget.
Down seven with 37 seconds remaining in regulation (and scoreless for nearly five minutes late in the 2nd half), University of Richmond fans began filing out of a sold out Robins Center. The Virginia Commonwealth University faithful started celebrating what appeared to be their second-straight win over their city rival, and their 10th in the last 12 tries. Rams’ Coach Shaka Smart felt it, as he crouched down in a defensive stance in front of his bench, encouraging his team to finish off a valiant Spiders’ squad that had controlled most of the game. The Richmond bench was lifeless as it too sensed that its inspiring effort was not quite enough to pull off the upset and change the trajectory of their rocky season.
On the court, however, a different story was unfolding.
It was VCU that appeared somewhat apprehensive, as they missed two late free throws to keep their two-possession lead while the trailing Spiders seemed cool and confident going into the final seconds of regulation. So confident, in fact, that Kendall Anthony told his teammates that despite their late deficit, “We’re going to win this game,” Anthony made sure of at least giving his team a chance to send the game into overtime by scoring six points in a span of four seconds after Troy Daniels missed a free throw. Darien Brothers, who had an off-shooting night by his standards, would take it from there and nail a clutch 3-pointer to tie the game with 1.5 seconds remaining and force overtime.
While the second half was characterized by numerous scoring runs from both teams, resulting in several lead changes, the overtime period was dominated by Richmond who outscored VCU, 17-5. Anthony picked up from where he left off at the end of regulation, scoring nine of his game-high 26 points and pacing the Spiders for their upset win over the Rams, 86-74. Brothers added five of his 18 points in overtime and Cedrick Lindsay contributed 10 points for the game.
The story of the game, however, was not Brothers’s game-tying shot in the final seconds to send the Robins Center into a frenzy, or Anthony’s remarkably clutch performance when it mattered most, or even Richmond’s domination of the Rams in overtime. Rather, what set the tone for Richmond’s memorable victory over cross-town arch nemesis VCU was their stout defensive effort and the firs-half play of three freshman: Deion Taylor, Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, and Terry Allen.
Richmond put on their best “Havoc” imitation Thurdsay night, holding VCU to just 38.6% from the field, including 17.6% (3-17) from beyond the arc, while scoring 17 points off of 13 Rams’ turnovers. Transition defense was superb for the Spiders, creating several steals in the backcourt and keeping VCU’s half-court offense out of sync for a majority of the game. VCU leading scorer, Treveon Graham, was held below his season average.
Despite giving up 16 offensive rebounds that led to 25 second-chance points for VCU, freshmen trio Taylor, Nelson-Ododa, and Allen more than sufficiently filled the void left by ailing Derrick Williams, who missed his sixth-straight game Thursday night (ankle injury). The young cast combined to shoot 9-12 from the field, scored 23 points, collected 18 rebounds, and provided the spark Richmond needed to take a lead into halftime. Taylor played exceptionally well for the second-straight contest, shooting 3-4 from outside, and exuded a confidence and poise similar to that of an experienced upperclassmen. The Spiders will continue to need consistent play from their young guns, especially since Williams may remain sidelined for at least another two weeks.
Only time will tell what kind of impact Thursday night’s thrilling victory will have on the remainder of the season for the Richmond Spiders. Often these types of wins can turn a mediocre, inconsistent season into a memorable postseason run. However, emotional and hard fought victories can also create hangover affects that linger into the team’s next contest. Regardless, Thursday night’s classic was one that those in attendance and those watching and listening around the region will likely never forget. And neither should the players and coaches of the Richmond Spiders.
- The Spiders have won four of the last five games against ranked opponents in the Robins Center, and eight of 13 against the Top 25 under head coach Chris Mooney.
- VCU came into Thursday night averaging 13 steals per game, but forced only 5 against Richmond.
- Richmond improves to 13-7 (3-2) on the season and will travel to UMASS on Sunday for a 2:00 PM tip.