By Noah Goldberg
Richmond rebounded from its first home loss of the season, defeating Davidson on the road Tuesday night. Chris Mooney’s group matches its win total of 13 from a year ago as the Spiders look to bolden their at-large resume, which currently has them on the bubble.
The Spiders’ three-point woes in conference play continued in the first half (5-15 3FG) Tuesday, however Jacob Gilyard navigated his way out of a slump after hitting just one deep ball in his last three outings. He scored 6 points (2-4 3FG) and spread the ball, splitting a double-team and spinning into the lane early in the game before finding Grant Golden under the basket for a layup, one of Gilyard’s 5 assists in the half.
Turnovers dictated the first 20 minutes, in favor of Richmond. In Gilyard’s first game as the Spiders’ all-time leader in steals, he took the ball away twice from the Wildcats, forcing 2 of their 8 turnovers in the period. Reigning A-10 Player of the Year Jon Axel-Gudmundsson coughed up the rock three times.
One of those three was a stolen pass by redshirt junior Nick Sherod, leading to a transition layup. Sherod had the hot hand, knocking down an NBA-range triple off the Matt Grace handoff, one of two in the half for him. He dropped 12 points (5-10 FG), nearly reaching his season average of 12.9 as the Spiders led 35-27 at the break.
Richmond struggled defensively in the first five minutes of the second half. After taking a 39-32 lead, the Spiders fouled on three straight possessions, and a fourth foul soon after was Matt Grace’s third in just a minute, a flagrant-one that led to two Kellan Grady free throws. Hitting them both, the lead was just 3 points, 39-36.
It was the Jacob Gilyard and Nick Sherod show the rest of the way. Midway through the half, Grant Golden found a running Jake Wojcik on the backdoor cut, but Davidson’s defense converged just outside of the restricted zone. Wojcik jumped towards the baseline, dishing to Gilyard in the corner who cashed a fading three. After starting A-10 play 1-14 3FG, the 1st team Preseason All-Conference point guard finished 4-7 from range, a much needed bounce back in the absence of Blake Francis. He left Belk Arena with 16 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals.
Sherod also had the deep ball raining. He was 4-10 from three and added a team-high 18 points and 6 rebounds.
Even with the Spiders rolling, leading the Wildcats by 10 midway in the half, Grant Golden was unable to use his size advantage against Bob McKillop’s weaker forwards. Golden backed down the 6’ 8” 200lbs Bates Jones (brother of New York Giants’ QB Daniel Jones), spinning right and putting up a post hook that fell off of the front rim. He would finish the game with 9 points on 3-7 shooting in a continuation of his low-post toils from the Saint Louis game. Against the likes of the more physical Jimmy Bell Jr and Hasahn French, he shot just 3-11 and committed two unforced turnovers.
The Spiders played excellent perimeter defense, restricting Davidson to 8-33 3FG and 33 FG%. Gudmundsson, Grady and Carter Collins combined to shoot 31 FG% on 38 shots and gave up 8 turnovers (6 by Gudmundsson). Gustavson gave 35 solid minutes starting in place of Francis, using his length to limit the quick triggered Wildcats.
Richmond improves to 13-4 (3-1) with the win, adding a road victory against the #2 team in the A-10 preseason polls, bolstering an at-large resume that finds the Spiders firmly on the bubble. The floundering Wildcats fall to 7-9 (1-3) as Bob McKillop continues to seek effective replacements for Luke Frampton and Kishawn Pritchett. The Spiders finished 15-16 from the free throw line where they’ve astronomically improved from last year when they shot below 70%. The multilateral scoring attack included 10 points from Nathan Cayo, 8 from Andre Gustavson and 7 from Jake Wojcik as the role players stepped up without Francis.
Richmond stays on the road, shipping up to Fairfax, Virginia Saturday to take on the George Mason Patriots. The weekend matinee will tip off at 2:30 p.m. with coverage beginning right here on 99.5 FM/950 AM ESPN.