Written by Noah Goldberg
Winners of four of their last five, the Spiders will look to sweep the George Mason Patriots on the season Wednesday night.
Since playing George Mason on February 6th, Richmond has lost only one game, a twenty point blowout at VCU. In their four February wins, their average margin of victory has been thirteen points.
Their young roster has learned how to adjust and win in different fashions this month. Threes have been falling, man defense has been effective, and steals have led to transition offense. However, most impressive has been the way they’ve closed games.
After blowouts against George Mason and George Washington, the Spiders found themselves in narrow games late in their last two contests. Against Fordham last Wednesday, a double digit second half lead shrunk to a tie at 67 with two minutes remaining. However, the youthful roster was able to get the ball into Grant Golden’s hands, who hit the game winning mid range shot to win 72-69.
Last Saturday at La Salle, Richmond once again found themselves in a close game late. Leading by two points with under a minute remaining, Golden again came up big, this time banking in a three to go up by two possessions. As their confidence has grown, so has their ability to perform in clutch situations, perfect timing with the A10 tournament looming.
George Mason has lost two consecutive games in what has been a terrible February for them. At the start of the month, they held sole possession of first place in the conference. Since, they’ve lost four of six, including three double digit losses.
Despite poor performance on the road, they’re 2-1 at home, with the only loss coming against Duquesne by one point. It will be interesting to see how Richmond performs in Fairfax as a team that has won on the road against SLU and La Salle.
This is the Spiders’ final test before returning to Robins Center to host VCU on Saturday. It would be huge to roll into the rivalry game with some momentum and confidence in their ability to beat higher ranked opponents.
Richmond has been the worst rebounding team in the A10 this year, with Grant Golden being their only consistent presence on the block. Nathan Cayo has also contributed, but in his first year as a starter he still is yet to fill out into his body. The Patriots are averaging about 34 rpg, good for top five in the conference. Despite this discrepancy, the Spiders did beat St. Louis, the top rebounding team, on the road. If they can continue to shoot well (67 FG% last Saturday), especially from deep, they could avoid their rebounding woes.
The big three for Richmond combined for 59 points on 80% shooting at La Salle last weekend. Golden had one of his most well rounded games of the season, scoring 24 points and adding nine rebounds and six assists. His excellent passing from the high post has led to numerous backdoor cut opportunities for Jacob Gilyard this season, who also scored twenty last game.
The last time these two teams faced, Gilyard, along with freshman guards Andre Gustavson and Jake Wojcik, were able to shut down the Patriots’ leading scorer, Justin Kier. Kier, averaging 14.4 ppg, was held to just five points on 1-6 shooting. While senior Otis Livingston II was getting his looks (20 points, 8-11 shooting), Richmond limited George Mason’s perimeter offense to 4-15 3FG, preventing the Patriots from finding rhythm. With George Mason’s recent struggles, this should be a very winnable game for the rolling Spiders if they can again stay consistent shooting the ball.
The Spiders sit eighth in the conference at 12-15 (6-8) and will look to continue their momentum heading towards the conference tournament. They will host VCU, winners of eight in a row, on Saturday. George Mason, sixth in the A10, will try to end their two game losing streak, with tough matchups at St. Louis and against VCU up next. Tip from EagleBank Arena is Wednesday night at 7:00pm EST. You can catch the game on 99.5 FM & 950 AM ESPN with coverage beginning at 6:30pm.