Written by Noah Goldberg


Edited by Charles Simmonds

In the first of two rivalry games this season, the VCU Rams’ bench outscored the Spiders’ 28-1 in an easy home victory.

Both teams struggled out of the gate offensively, trading basket for basket most of the first ten minutes. The Rams’ signature “Havoc Defense” proved challenging for a young Spider team. Richmond has struggled breaking full court presses all year. As each side’s shooting hovered around 40% from the floor, the Rams led just 12-10 with about ten minutes remaining in the first half.

The next five minutes are when the wheels really came off. Freshman Matt Grace checked into the game for Spider forward Grant Golden at about the 9:40 mark. He quickly had a shot blocked in the post and then fouled defensively on the very next possession. Momentum building, Chris Mooney promptly sent Golden back into the game. The next three sequences by VCU went as follows: Vince Williams pump faked from the corner, then drove baseline for a powerful slam; Williams then drew a charge on Golden; Julius Johnson gets called for an over the back foul to send VCU into the bonus.

In only five minutes, the Rams had taken a 30-15 lead. Golden would start to find some rhythm on offense, but the deficit would go to sixteen just before half with a score of 41-25.

VCU has shot three pointers at a 29% rate this season, making just under seven of them per game. In the first half, they were 6-12. Excellent ball movement and penetration left the Richmond zone confused at times and they simply did not rotate well.

While the three point shooting remained solid for the Rams (10-22 for the game), they put on a dunking showcase reminiscent of the Clippers’ Lob City. Despite having a strong second half, sophomore Nathan Cayo was put on a poster by VCU’s Marcus Santos-Silva on a lob from De’Riante Jenkins.

Although rebounding has been the Spiders’ achilles heel this year (bottom five in the nation), they only had five less boards than VCU and actually had one more offensive rebound than the Rams. The two main factors were VCU’s tenacious perimeter defense and the battle (or lack thereof) of the benches.

Richmond’s short bench has been a challenge all season as they have a very young roster. Sal Koureissi, coming off of a career game against GW, scored the lone bench point for the Spiders. Mooney said of Koureissi after the game, “I need to get Sal a lot more minutes.” He’s probably right, considering the burden that lack of bench production has put on Golden and fellow sophomore Jacob Gilyard (14 points). Gilyard has averaged nearly 37 mpg and played thirty-eight in this one. Cayo also was in for thirty-six minutes (side note: VCU did not have one player in for more than thirty minutes).

The Rams are the top team in the nation this season at defending the three point shot, even ahead of UVA. Star junior Marcus Evans and teammate Jenkins have locked up opposing guards all year.

While Richmond was fairly efficient from deep (43%), their looks were limited as they totaled only six makes on the evening. A loss against La Salle, when compared to a victory against George Mason, highlights that when Richmond hits threes at a high rate, they can play with anyone. This is largely because it prevents opponents from double teaming Cayo and Golden on the block.

Nathan Cayo was physical on the interior in the second half after looking uncomfortable in the first. He scored a game high 18 points and had nineteen attempts at the free throw line. As great a number as that is, he only made ten of those, just over 50%. Richmond left a lot of points at the line, shooting a meek 14-27 (52%) there. Had they converted at a higher rate the game easily could’ve became more competitive down the stretch.

VCU had the Stu rocking all night in an easy blowout victory over Richmond, 81-60. The Rams improve to 18-6 (9-2), sitting one spot shy of Davidson for first in the A10. The Spiders fall to 10-15 (4-8) which has them at 11th in the conference. They’ll look to rebound (figuratively and literally) at home next Wednesday against Fordham. You can catch the game here on ESPN Richmond, with coverage beginning at 6:30p.

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