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Written by Noah Goldberg

@NoahGoldberg10

Avoiding a near collapse against Fordham last Wednesday, the Spiders will look to get their second win in a row Saturday at La

As the A10 Tournament approaches, Richmond currently sits tenth in the conference, one game ahead of St. Joe’s. In order to avoid playing on the first day of the conference tournament, the Spiders must finish tenth or higher. With games remaining against GMU, Davidson, and VCU, it’s crucial that they can capitalize against La Salle as competition will only get tougher.

The rise of the youth has been a major factor for the Spiders, who are winners of four of their last six. Freshman Andre Gustavson has seen his game improve as of late. Thrust into a starting role early in the year, his confidence has grown tremendously on both sides of the ball. Coach Mooney said of his performance against Fordham on Wednesday, “[Maybe Andre’s best game as a Spider?] Yeah I think so. I thought he was terrific.” Gustavson’s defense against the Rams’ standout freshman Nick Honor was also notable. Coach said of it, “[Gustavson] Did a great job defensively. You can see how much ability is in there.”

Fellow freshman Sal Koureissi seemed to have his own breakout game against GW two weeks ago, totaling ten points and five rebounds in a dominant victory. While he struggled against VCU and played limited minutes against Fordham, he’s shown major flashes of ability driving the ball and as a rebounder.

Despite Koureissi’s development, the bench’s lack of depth has been a major issue for Mooney’s squad. This has placed significant pressure on sophomores Jacob Gilyard, who’s playing nearly thirty-seven minutes a night, Grant Golden, and Nathan Cayo. In a twenty-one point loss at VCU, the reserves were outscored 28-1, highlighting the bench struggles. In a road loss at St. Joe’s (a game the Spiders led by twelve at halftime), the bench only scored six points. It’s vital that Koureissi and seniors Noah Yates and Julius Johnson can bring production off of the bench.

Mooney has implored the use of a man defense over the last few weeks, a change from zone strategies he’s used so consistently. While they will switch between the two throughout games, zone defenses can be very challenging for young teams to master. Utilization of man defense was a large reason Gustavson was able to guard Honor so well on Wednesday. With La Salle’s star guard Pookie Powell looming, Gilyard and Gustavson will certainly have their hands full.

Powell scored eighteen points in the first meeting between the Spiders and the Explorers, just above his season average of 15.8. However, he was held to 5/15 shooting and 3-8 from deep.

The main story behind the game was the rebounding battle, which La Salle won 41-30. Freshman Explorer Ed Croswell was sensational on the glass, grabbing sixteen boards, ten of which came offensively. The 6’ 8”, 255 lb forward has now been inserted into the starting lineup since losing to St. Louis two games ago. The guards will need to help Golden and Cayo rebound as the two forwards fight for positioning down low.

The Spiders, subtracting the VCU game, seem to have hit some stride in their last six games. After a controversial billboard regarding coach Mooney went up Thursday, look to see if the team can use it as motivation against the Explorers. Tip is at 2:00pm EST Saturday from the Tom Gola Arena in Philadelphia. You can listen on 99.5 FM& 950 AM ESPN with coverage beginning at 1:30pm.

Also On ESPN Richmond:

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