The Spiders locked in defensively Saturday night, holding the A-10’s leader in 3P% in check as they defeated George Washington 76-54.
Richmond locked in defensively after an abysmal effort on the perimeter against VCU. The Colonials entered as the A-10’s leaders in three point shooting, but Jacob Gilyard and company had something to say about that.
Freshman Jamison Battle has been sensational from deep, shooting nearly 40% on over seven attempts. Eight minutes into the game, the 6’ 7” southpaw drilled a deep step back with Tyler Burton closing out, giving Spider fans vivid flashbacks of Bones Hyland on Tuesday night. That’d be the last time Battle would find the bottom of the net from that range as the Spiders’ defense smothered the Colonials.
With 6:12 left in the first, junior Nathan Cayo closed out on an Amir Harris three-pointer from the corner. Cayo blocked the shot, and after Harris grabbed his own miss, Nick Sherod stripped him and found Andre Gustavson running the break, who would draw a foul.
It was the Colonials’ seventh turnover up to that point, one of 12 they’d commit in the half.
Jacob Gilyard didn’t find his shooting stroke, but he had the biggest impact of any Spider aside from Grant Golden. With a couple minutes to go in the first half, the shot clock was running down for GW. A ball screen switched Gilyard, just 5’ 9,” onto Battle. A couple crossovers and a step back looked as if Battle would rise up for a three, but Gilyard stripped him and then drew a foul. He’d finish the game with just four points but added 9 assists, 4 steals and no turnovers.
Forcing a 12th turnover, Richmond went into the locker room up 39-22.
Tyler Burton gave a spark off the bench in the second half. Minutes in, Gilyard once again came up with a steal and threw it up in transition for an alley-oop layup to Burton as the Robins Center was rocking. Burton also had a thunderous dunk in the first half, when he split two defenders off a Wojcik pass.
In just under 17 minutes, the Spiders’ only freshman had 12 points on 6-8 shooting with just one turnover.
Offensively, Richmond looked to work the ball into the paint nearly every possession. Up by over 20 points late, Golden spun around Amir Harris on the baseline, finishing at the other side of the basket. The next possession, he went to work on the block, drawing a foul on Chase Paar.
“We wanted to throw the ball inside to Grant, and Nate and Nick and Sal and Matt. Most importantly just trying to get G established… He’s really playing well and we wanted to throw the ball inside,” Chris Mooney said after the game.
Establish “G” they did. Golden scored 20 points (9-14 FG), three rebounds, two assists and just one turnover, his second-straight 20-point performance and the Spiders outscored the Colonials 50-34 in the paint.
It was great to see Nick Sherod shoot well after a rough night at VCU, scoring 15 (5-9 FG, 2-2 3FG) with no turnovers, and his defense was excellent. He nabbed four steals as Richmond turned 18 GW turnovers into 22 points.
In four games without leading scorer Blake Francis, Richmond has gone 4-2, including two road wins but failing to defeat a top-5 team in the A-10. The offense has floundered at times without him, especially from behind the arc. The Spiders were just 4-15 from deep Saturday and 3-14 against VCU. His initial 4-6 week timetable might be moved up, however.
“I think it might be a possibility, yeah,” Chris Mooney said of Francis potentially returning against Fordham on Saturday. It’s an encouraging sign for his progress, however there is no reason to rush him back.
The Spiders have a week off before heading to Fordham, then face La Salle the following Wednesday, who they’ve already beaten by 18. Those two precede a crucial rematch with VCU, one of few resume-building games Richmond has left. It could be in its best interest to at least hold Francis off until heading to Pennsylvania.
The Spiders improve to 16-6 (6-3), locked into a four-way tie for third place in the Atlantic-10. They’ll head to New York on Saturday to take on the Rams, who somehow are yet to be relegated from the conference. That one will tip off at 2 p.m. and you can catch the action right here on 99.5 and 102.7 ESPN.