By Noah Goldberg
With a prime opportunity to separate themselves into the upper echelon of the A-10, the Spiders fell to VCU 87-68 in the Siegel Center Tuesday. Grant Golden finished with 24 points (10-20 FG), but lackluster performances from Nick Sherod and Jacob Gilyard headlined an uncomposed second half for Richmond, which shot just 3-14 from deep.
The famous “havoc” defense was out in full force early for Mike Rhoades’ unit. The Rams scored 4 points off of 3 Spider turnovers in the first 5 minutes, including a 10-second backcourt violation. Their energy burst was going on both ends of the floor, as they also began 3-3 from the field, followed by a 4-point play from Marcus Evans. VCU led Richmond 13-6 with 15:12 to play.
Grant Golden wasn’t fazed by the powerful Marcus Santos-Silva, continually attacking in the post. He grabbed an early 8 points on 4-5 shooting, helping Richmond tie things up at 13 on a 7-0 Spider run.
Freshman sensation Bones Hyland didn’t sub in until about 7 minutes into the game, and he made his presence felt quickly. During a 4:38 Spider scoring drought, Hyland drilled three ridiculous stepback triples, including two over sophomore Andre Gustavson. Nathan Cayo finally quieted down the roaring Siegel Center by drawing a charge on Isaac Vann. The damage was already done though, as VCU led 31-18 with about 8 minutes to go.
With Hyland off the floor, Richmond needed to take advantage of a sputtering VCU offense. When Jacob Gilyard threw an errant pass out of bounds, it looked as if the Spiders would continue to struggle, but Richmond hopped back in by evening the turnover margin.
The Spiders finished the half tied 9-9 with VCU in turnovers, largely in thanks to two steals from both Golden and sophomore Sal Koureissi, as well as one from Gilyard. A 13-1 Spider run drew Richmond within 1 point with less than two minutes to go.
Scoreless until 3 minutes remaining in the half, Gilyard got going late. He notched 4 straight points, capped off with a coast-to-coast bucket after picking Marcus Evans’ pocket. It gave Richmond its first lead of the game, 37-36, however a ridiculous step-back three from Hyland would tie things at 39 going into the break.
The Spiders could not find a stop on defense through the first 4:24 of the second half. Starting 1-6 from the field themselves, they consistently were late on defensive rotations. The Rams drilled 3-4 three-pointers, including a wide open look from the red-hot Hyland. VCU jumped to a 52-42 lead.
A 6-0 Spider run around the 11 minute mark was their only scoring stretch that VCU couldn’t answer. As Nick Sherod missed a wide open triple (1-6 FG to that point), the Rams led 69-55 with just under 8 to play.
The final stretch of the half followed the same narrative as the first 12. Anytime Richmond flirted with a comeback, the Rams would answer.
After Gilyard picked Marcus Evans’s pocket and finished coast-to-coast, the Spiders cut the deficit to 71-59 6:40 to go. On the next play, Santos-Silva was mobbed in the paint and missed a tough finish around the rim. Potentially a crucial stop for Richmond, Corey Douglas snatched the board and secured the put back.
The Spiders weren’t dominated in one particular stat except the most important: shooting. They lacked composure down the stretch with several careless turnovers, but they never would’ve been at such a deficit had they hit shots. Nick Sherod scored just 5 points (1-7 FG) after a 21-point outing against #7 Dayton.
As Richmond was just 3-14 from deep, a Rams offense that has been inconsistent this season had no trouble breaking down the Spiders. They went 10-21 from beyond the arc behind a great night from Hyland (15 points on 5-6 3FG). Chris Mooney expressed disappointment in his team’s effort defensively after the game, and Grant Golden bluntly called it unacceptable.
Richmond drops to 5-3 in the Atlantic-10 as VCU improves to 6-2. The Spiders will look to bounce back on Saturday with a home matchup against George Washington.