Written by Noah Goldberg, @NoahGoldberg10
Edited by Charles Simmonds
Winners in three of their last four games, the Spiders head into the Siegel Center tonight looking to beat a top five A10 team for the third time in two weeks.
Richmond’s inconsistent play this season can largely be attributed to the nature of their shooting. As bad as their rebounding is (bottom ten in the nation) the Spiders have shown that when their perimeter shots fall, they can play with anyone.
In a home win against George Mason last week, they shot 10-21 from three point range. In a twenty-three point victory against George Washington, they hit the three ball at a 56.5% clip and at 43% in a win at St. Louis. This team has lived and died by the three as of late and when they even have guys like freshman Sal Koureissi knocking them down, they’re unstoppable.
However, VCU is the best defensive team in the A10 and the best in the nation at limiting threes. Opponents have shot 25% from deep against the Rams, which even ranks ahead of Tony Bennett’s Virginia. If their defense can prevent Jacob Gilyard and company scoring from deep, that puts a lot of pressure on Grant Golden and one of the nation’s worst rebounding frontcourts.
If the Spiders really want to defeat a top defensive team in the NCAA, they’re going to need to capitalize on every opportunity they can. This means free throws.
Against St. Louis, Richmond was 17-18 from the free throw line. All though they shot the three pointer efficiently, they only made seven in total, just behind their average of 7.6 3FGM/G. However, 17-18 FT (94.4%) is far better than the 68% they shoot as a team. It’s crucial that they get to the line and take advantage of those chances because it’s likely that VCU locks up the perimeter far more than the likes of GW and George Mason.
Marcus Evans, junior guard at VCU, has had a down year shooting the ball in his first season since transferring from Rice. He averaged over 20 points per game his freshman year and 19 points per game his sophomore season, while shooting the three at nearly 38%. While that number has plunged at VCU to 24% and 13.3 points per game, this is a rivalry matchup. We saw last night what Duke did to Louisville in a big ACC rivalry game. In the clutch moments of these games, the stars come out to play. While Richmond hopes it’s true for Gilyard and Golden, like Zion Williamson for Duke, VCU can count on Marcus Evans to show up in the Siegel Center.
In fact, my key matchup of the game is between Evans and Gilyard. Gilyard is top five in the country in steals per game, while Evans and the Rams are top twenty in overall defense. If Gilyard gets shots to fall, Richmond can play with anyone, especially when he’s being disruptive defensively as well. If the VCU defense holds true as the Billikens’ could not, the Spiders likely won’t be able to keep up.
VCU defends their home court against the University of Richmond at 7:00 pm EST tonight. You can catch the game on television on ESPNU or here at ESPN Richmond (channels here) with coverage beginning at 6:30 on 99.5 & 102.7 ESPN..