By Noah Goldberg
Richmond has the chance to rebound from blowout loss when George Washington comes to town Saturday.
The Spiders are hoping for a respite following their toughest two-game stretch of the season, an 8-point home loss to #7 Dayton and a 19-point loss in the Siegel Center. While many pegged the Colonials as a bottom-four team in the conference, the blue and gold are coming off a 4OT victory against Davidson and are yet to lose by more than five points during A-10 play.
Richmond desperately needs consistency from its shooters after Tuesday night. Mike Rhoades made it clear he was going to let juniors Grant Golden and Nathan Cayo go one-on-one with Marcus Santos-Silva and Corey Douglas, while unleashing full-havoc upon the Spiders’ perimeter threats.
After dropping 29 points on the Flyers, Jacob Gilyard was uncomfortable throughout the entire game, scoring 10 points (3-7 FG) and committing five turnovers. Fellow junior Nick Sherod had his worst performance of the year, scoring just five points (1-7 FG) and failing to hit a triple.
Richmond went 3-14 from beyond the arc, and over the past two games, they’ve shot just 41% from the field. For as bad as the deep ball was, the Spiders’ poor defensive effort was most eye-popping.
George Washington may not feature a dominant interior force like Santos-Silva or a bench spark plug like freshman Bones Hyland, but the Colonials do have some explosive young talent.
Freshman Jamison Battle has inserted himself into A-10 ROY conversation, along with UMass’s Tre Mitchell and Hyland. He’s averaging 12.7 points and 5.7 rebounds and at 6’ 7” is making 3.1 triples per game at a 39.6% clip.
Battle has a similar frame to Cayo, but he would be an intriguing matchup with freshman Tyler Burton. Burton played less than seven minutes against VCU, despite the Spiders’ defensive struggles, however he’s shown a dynamic offensive arsenal and can defensively hold his own on the perimeter. Mooney may have been hesitant to throw him into the fire, a conservative decision that proved costly, but expect him to give Burton at least 15 minutes, if not more.
Upper classmen Armel Potter and Maceo Jack anchor Jamion Christian’s back court. Potter, GW’s leading scorer, isn’t a threat to pull up from deep, however he takes 5.6 free throws per game and leads the Colonials in assists. His 105 defensive rating is only eighth on the roster, and at 6’ 1” he’ll be matched up on Gilyard, a battle Richmond should look to expose.
Jack is coming off of a monster performance, scoring 35 against the Wildcats. The 6’ 5” junior shoots 36 3FG% on over seven attempts. He doesn’t get to the line much (.146 free throw rate), but he takes care of the rock (9.1 TOV%). He’ll probably draw Nick Sherod most of the game, although sophomore Andre Gustavson could also switch onto him from freshman Jameer Nelson Jr.
The colonials lead the A-10 in three-point shooting (35%). After the Rams rained triples to the tune of 10-21 3FG, Richmond needs its focus level on 100 guarding the perimeter. VCU certainly exposed the Spiders in the paint also, as Santos-Silva was wide open on the weak-side throughout the second half, yet a less experienced George Washington team doesn’t have a major low-post threat.
A good chance for Richmond to regroup, the Spiders could be looking at a trap game if the shooting stays cold. Sherod needs to rediscover his stroke, and the bench needs to be able to contribute if he can’t. VCU’s reserves dominated Richmond’s, outscoring them 36-8.
The Colonials will come marching into the Robins Center Saturday at 6 p.m. It’s a must win for the Spiders, who will have a week off before traveling to Fordham the following Saturday. With another bout against VCU and away games at St. Bonaventure and Duquesne, Richmond can’t afford a home upset if it hopes to keep its at-large bid potential alive. Catch the action right here on 99.5 and 102.7 ESPN.