The Spiders improved to 7-1 with an 80-63 victory over Hampton University behind 29 points from Blake Francis. 15-31 three-point shooting propelled them over the Pirates despite missing Grant Golden and Nate Cayo as they both recover from ankle injuries.
Freshman Tyler Burton made his first start along with sophomore Sal Koureissi as they filled in for the injured juniors Grant Golden and Nathan Cayo. The two big men were top-three scorers for the Spiders last season and have been the primary post players for a Richmond team that had concerns with interior defense coming into the year.
With Hampton’s leading scorer Jermaine Marrow out (24.9 points), it looked like sophomore Benjamin Stanley was prepared to fill the void. He took advantage of Richmond’s lack of depth on the block, starting 6-6 from the field and securing a double-double in the first half. He dominated on the offensive glass, knocked down threes and secured position in the low post at will.
Nick Sherod continued his shooting struggles from Saturday’s win over BC (0-5 3FG) to start, beginning 0-2 from deep. With the Spiders’ shooting inconsistent through the first fifteen minutes, they trailed the Pirates 28-20 late in the half. However, a few tough buckets from Francis and Sherod’s first 3 of the game helped Richmond to a 14-2 run, leading 34-30 at the half.
With Hampton outscoring UR 28-8 in the paint early in the second half, Richmond continued to put its foot on the gas from long range. Straight out of the break, Burton grabbed an offensive rebound off of a missed Francis three. Sherod then chased down a loose ball off of another miss down low, penetrated, then kicked out to Blake who made this three point shot count.
The Spiders would go on later in the half to score on six straight possessions. Great shooting from Francis, Gilyard and Sherod led them to a 60-47 lead and Richmond locked Stanley down the rest of the way, who finished with 24 points. Matt Grace, seeing extra minutes without Golden and Cayo, added seven points in the second half, knocking down two threes. Grace showed an ability to hit perimeter looks in limited tries last year, and if he could get stronger we may see more of his floor spacing this year.
Blake Francis dominated the game with 29 points (6-11 3FG), continuously hitting threes off the dribble. At one point, he drove from left to right, stopped and then crossed his defender at the free throw line, causing him to fall over as Francis easily knocked down the midrange shot.
Jacob Gilyard had an efficient night, scoring 18 points on 6-10 shooting and adding in 5 assists, four rebounds and three steals. His tenth point marked the 1,000th for his career, becoming the 48th Spider in history to do so and just the third with 1,000 points and 200 steals. After a rough start, Nick Sherod also finished with 16 points on 3-7 3FG as the trio combined to shoot 13-25 from deep.
Richmond’s 7-1 start is its best since 2009, and the Spiders are now catching national attention with March Madness writer Andy Katz predicting them to be in the play-in game for a 12th seed in the NCAA tourney. With this win, they look ahead to a home matchup with South Alabama Sunday, who ranks 124th in KenPom rankings and lost to Auburn by just one point in November. Gametime is 2 p.m. from the Robins Center and you can catch coverage on 99.5 FM/950 AM Richmond.