By Noah Goldberg
The Spiders fell to Saint Louis University on Saturday 74-58, Richmond’s first loss at home of the season. Chris Mooney’s squad falls to 12-4 (2-1) after beating Rhode Island on the road a week ago. Nick Sherod led the Spiders with 17 points and five rebounds, becoming the fourth player on the roster to achieve 1,000 career points (Grant Golden, Jacob Gilyard and Blake Francis).
Grant Golden struggled out of the gates, going against the likes of 6’ 10” freshman Jimmy Bell Jr. Bell picked up two easy looks on the Billikens’ first couple possessions as Golden bega 1-5 from the field. Less than three minutes in, Jacob Gilyard hit Golden rolling out of the screen, finding himself a wide open path to the hoop. The beastly Hasahn French flew in for a block, however, prompting Mooney to sub in sophomore Matt Grace.
With about 6:28 left in the first half, the Spiders were shooting 8-21 from the field. They were having difficulties with Saint Louis’s physical front court, which poured in 18 points in the paint out of 23 total. In response, 6’ 7” freshman Tyler Burton stepped up. He had a monster block, pinning the ball against the backboard, drew a charge on Javonte Perkins and switched over to double team French with Golden, forcing the loose ball. He was one of just two Spiders with a +/- above 0 in the half.
Leaving the locker room tied at 31, Richmond controlled the game for the first six minutes in the second half by out-scoring the Billikens 12-6. Blake Francis was buzzing, hitting two difficult midrange shots, while Sherod backed down Jordan Goodwin in the post on back-to-back possessions, including an and-one on the second.
Just as momentum seemed to swing the Spiders’ way, SLU ripped off a 21-2 run, blowing the game open. For as great as Goodwin and Bell played, Richmond beat itself. Not only did Jacob Gilyard struggle from the field (1-7 FG), but he had an uncharacteristic five turnovers, as did Francis. Richmond’s 6:15 assist-turnover ratio was the worst of the season. In fact, the Spiders are top-25 in fewest turnovers and top-50 in assists.
At times, the shot selection was shaky, such as Blake Francis missing a step-back three in transition, his third miss from deep in three consecutive possessions.
Richmond looked unfocused and out of sync. Late in the half, Golden looked from the top of the key to Andre Gustavson in the right corner. After the two connected on a backdoor cut earlier in the game, Gustavson faked out and broke toward the hoop, but Golden passed to the corner as he made his break. The ball sailed out of bounds, leaving both confounded and frustrated.
Richmond has been a volatile team all year, largely living and dying by the deep ball. However, they’ve won tough games without hitting many shots, such as a road win against Old Dominion. A 4-21 3FG performance is not going to beat such a physical force like the Billikens, but chucking up shots in a late comeback attempt exaggerated that stat. The real story was turnovers.
A night on which he joined the 1,000 point mark, Nick Sherod was far from celebratory. Responding to the Spiders’ struggles with SLU’s defense, “I think it’s probably more self-inflicted than anything.” Whether passing out of double teams, trying to run the break or simply running their sets, the Spiders were careless with the ball.
For that reason, this game should be taken with a grain of salt. The poor shooting leaves concern about consistency, but 15 turnovers is what killed this team, something which has not been a recurring issue. Long term, this one doesn’t project much about the Spiders, but it certainly sets them back in the at-large race after taking a big step forward last week.
The Spiders fall from 46 to 63 in the NET rankings and drop to 83 in KenPom. Wisconsin’s road win against #20 Penn State helps their resume, but right now Richmond can’t afford more than four or five conference losses if it’s eyes are on the Dance.
Richmond looks to get back on track Tuesday, heading down to Davidson. Tip will be at 7 p.m. with coverage here on 99.5 & 102.7 ESPN.