Richmond goes on the road Tuesday to face the Davidson Wildcats, following a loss to Saint Louis Saturday, the first at the Robins Center this season. Junior Blake Francis suffered a right shoulder injury late in the game Saturday, with a team source telling me that he did not practice Monday and his status is considered day-to-day. He also received additional testing on the shoulder to determine the extent of the injury. There have been no further updates, though I’d be surprised if he plays Tuesday.
Richmond was swept by the Wildcats last season, led by 2018-2019 A-10 Player of the Year Jon Axel-Gudmundsson and Kellan Grady. The dynamic back court pairing has fallen short of expectations this season, however. Gudmundsson’s production has dipped across the board, seeing his scoring drop from 16.9 points to 12.3, with his assists and rebounds also falling by over 1 per game. Grady’s scoring has also receded from 17.3 to 15.8.
A season-ending injury to Luke Frampton, who led the Wildcats with 24 points and 8 threes against the Spiders in their first meeting last year, has been devastating for a team failing to meet lofty expectations. Ranked #2 in the A-10 preseason poll, Davidson has gone just 7-8 (1-2), including losses to Charlotte, Temple and Vanderbilt. They’ve also lost to URI and Duquesne, with a lone conference win against St. Joseph’s in overtime.
Davidson’s style of play is a 180 degree spin from Saint Louis’s interior dominance. Sophomore Luka Brajkovic has been a promising young center at 6’ 10” 220lbs, showing good awareness in the post on offense and having a variety of moves in the paint. He’s vastly different from Hasahn French, though, grabbing just 5.7 rebounds and posting a team-high rebounding percentage of just 14.3 and 4.2 BLK%. Especially if Blake Francis is unavailable, expect the Spiders to feed the stronger Grant Golden on the block all game.
Jacob Gilyard has hit a shooting slump through the first three games of conference play. He’s just 1-14 from beyond the arc and is averaging just 7 points. His two-way ability and passing vision usually allow him to affect the game in other ways when his shooting goes cold (such as Rhode Island, when he had 6 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and zero turnovers), though not so much last weekend. The sure-handed Gilyard played out of character, coughing up 5 turnovers, about 3 more than his 1.8 per game. Davidson’s entire starting-five has defensive ratings in the triple-digits and no Wildcat grabs more than 1.7 (Grady) steals nightly, so if Gilyard is going to return to form, Tuesday is the night to do it.
Not only is Richmond the better perimeter shooting team, but it’s a rare matchup in which it is the more physical one as well. Even with the potential absence of Francis, Andre Gustavson’s growing offensive capabilities (8 points on 4-5 FG against SLU) and Tyler Burton’s bench production give the Spiders an advantage against the short-handed Wildcats, who’ve resorted to giving noticeable minutes to 5’ 10” walk-on Malcolm Wynter.
The nationally televised game tips off on Tuesday at 7 p.m. as the Spiders look to grab their 13th win of the year, which would match last season’s total. Catch the action right here on 99.5 & 102.7 ESPN, with coverage beginning at 6:30.