Written by Noah Goldberg
The Spiders went into Chaifetz Arena tonight with only one A10 win, coming at GW. Tonight, despite being worked on the offensive glass by Hassan French, they came away with the upset against the A10 preseason favorite St. Louis Billikens.
Grant Golden was the story of the first half for the Spiders. He dropped 19 points and was immaculate from the free throw line. Despite Javon Bess’s locked in perimeter shooting, the Spiders led 47-40 at the break on a deep buzzer-beater three by sophomore Jacob Gilyard.
Coming out of the half, the Billikens went on a 7-0 run to tie things at 47. With Golden queited (he didn’t score until about 12 minutes in), the Spiders found themselves trading buckets and struggling to pull away. However, following another 7-0 Billiken run later in the half, the Spiders answered with a couple threes, now leading 78-67 with about 3 minutes left in the game.
Dug into a deep hole, head coach Travis Ford sent his team into a full court press. Richmond struggled to inbound the ball, turning it over two consecutive times in their own half. This led to a bucket in the restricted area and then a shooting foul and just like that, St. Louis only trailed 78-72.
Despite multiple turnovers, Richmond still led 80-77 with about 41 seconds left. After trading baskets, the St. Louis press forced Spider freshman Jake Wojcik into Richmond’s 3rd turnover in their own half of the court in the last 3 minutes. Then, the Billikens worked it down low for a basket, cutting their deficit to 82-81 with 2.1 seconds remaining. Even with the disruptive press, the Spiders were able to get the ball up to Jacob Gilyard who was intentionally fouled. He made his free throws to seal the nail biting win.
Coming off of a home loss to St. Bonaventure’s in which they only scored 57 points, the Spiders knew they needed to hit shots. They’d been 24% from deep in the four game losing streak and have shot the ball horribly from the free throw line all year. While not prolific, they were efficient tonight at 7-16 from outside the arc and nearly perfect at the free throw line (17-18 FT). Richmond is below 70% at the charity stripe this year. For them to compete in close games with top A10 talent, they need to convert on their free chances more as they did tonight.
Former Michigan St starter Javon Bess had an absolutely monster game, tearing the Spiders apart for 31 points including two ridiculously deep threes in the first half. His teammate Hassan French also had a dominant performance, dropping 13 points to go along with 12 rebounds, 7 of which were offensive.
The Billikens worked Richmond on the glass all night, out rebounding the Spiders 38-26 with 21 on the offensive end. Relentless fighting in the paint helped them get multiple second chance points late in the game to nearly comeback from down 11.
The Spiders’ budding big three of Grant Golden, Jacob Gilyard, and Nathan Cayo showed out tonight, combining for 68 of the team’s 84 points. All three were over 20 on the night.
A huge factor, though, was the free throw shooting by Gilyard and Golden. Golden is below 70% this year and Gilyard is under 75%. Despite struggles, especially late in games, the two combined for 12-13 from the line on the night, including Gilyard closing out the game on an intentional foul.
Sophomore forward out of Montreal Nathan Cayo had been the one bright spot over the previous four games. He’d averaged 18 ppg in his last five on 70+% shooting from the field. He’s been monumental in taking the load off of Golden and Gilyard.
Richmond was able to snap their four game losing streak tonight by taking down the St. Louis Billikens by a final score of 84-81. The Billikens’ third straight loss, their hopes of an A10 title seem to really have faded, especially with two games left against Dayton on their schedule. Richmond improves to 8-13 (2-6) and moves up one spot in the A10 (11th). They’ll be back at home on Saturday to take on La Salle at 6:00pm EST.