Written by Noah Goldberg
Losing by twenty-one points in The Stu earlier this season, the Spiders narrowly lost at home to VCU on Saturday, falling 69-66.
It was a slow game out of the gates as both VCU and Richmond were locked in defensively, holding each other to 1-4 shooting starts. Nine minutes into the game, VCU led just 8-5.
The Spiders got to the free throw line often, but couldn’t capitalize on their chances. They missed their first eight attempts (0-6 in the first half), making it hard to score against a VCU team that defends the three so well.
With just under four minutes remaining in the first half, Richmond trailed 25-16. Sophomore Jacob Gilyard was able to drive baseline and find a wide open Noah Yates for a corner three. On the next possession, Gilyard found Yates for another three, his third of the half. Just like that, the Spiders were within one basket.
However, the last two and a half minutes were all VCU. Back to back steals leading to transition dunks allowed the Rams to go on a 9-0 run, helped by a rare technical foul on Chris Mooney. VCU was able to close out the half leading by ten, with a score of 34-24. They generated thirteen Richmond turnovers before the midway point.
Redshirt sophomore Grant Golden could not find any rhythm in the first period. He was called for traveling violations on back to back possessions with about ten minutes left in the first. Golden was unable to find the bottom of the net in the first twenty, putting up a line of 0-3 FG, 0-4 FT, five turnovers, two assists, and eight rebounds with a team-low -16 differential.
Richmond came out of the break with great energy, hitting open looks and drawing fouls. Grant Golden was able to hit his first field goal on a feed from Jake Wojcik, followed by an Andre Gustavson three off of the Marcus Evans turnover. At the 15:18 minute mark, Gilyard hit the Spiders’ first two free throws, clawing the deficit back to four at 40-36.
Despite playing just 2:42 in the game, freshman Sal Koureissi grabbed an offensive rebound and got the put back near the thirteen minute mark. Golden was able to steal the ball on the next play, give it to Gilyard, who found Gustavson in transition for a layup, tying the game at 43. Gilyard then made a smooth reverse layup to give the Spiders their first lead of the game.
However, VCU responded immediately with an alley-oop to Michael Gilmore, the start to an 8-0 Rams run.
With back and forth play ensuing, the Spiders trailed 66-59 with 1:21 left in the game. Ten seconds later, sophomore Nathan Cayo fouled out of the game. Without another strong body, coach Mooney decided to put in guard Jake Wojcik to join Gilyard, Golden, Gustavson, and Yates on the floor.
After a big three by Golden, the Spiders were forced to use a full court press on the VCU inbound. Trailing 68-62, Gustavson stole the ball in VCU’s half of the court. Richmond found Noah Yates in the corner, who hit a huge three to make it a one possession game with about 40 seconds left.
Playing the foul game, Richmond was able to get a possession down three with about twelve seconds left. Wojcik got a good look at a three but he couldn’t quite find the mark in the final seconds. Mooney said of the final shot, “It was a good shot. Jake has our first or second most threes on the season…He got a really good look at the shot, and we’ll take that from him for sure.”
It was a game of “what ifs” for the Spiders. In just a three point defeat, they were 8-19 at the free throw line, saw Grant Golden’s worst game of the season, and lost Nathan Cayo with a minute remaining. If any of those factors change, the storyline could’ve been completely different.
Speaking of storylines, Marcus Evans made some comments after the last game that drew a reaction out of Jacob Gilyard on Twitter.
Asked Friday if Evans’ words would provide extra motivation, Gilyard said “We’ll see,” with a grin. He certainly seemed motivated, dropping a game high 23 points and adding six assists, three rebounds, and three steals.
With St. Joe’s win against La Salle, Richmond drops to eleventh in the A-10, meaning, as of now, they do not have a bye past the first day of the conference tournament. Richmond sits at 12-17 (6-10), with games remaining at UMass and against Davidson. They’ll travel to Amherst, Massachusetts on Wednesday with tip off at 7:00pm. You can catch the action here on ESPN Richmond with coverage starting at 6:30pm.