Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend
UR’s backcourt depth challenged
Injuries have thinned the ranks of Spiders guards
A loose ball bounced toward the scorer’s table at Davidson on Wednesday night. In pursuit went University of Richmond guard Blake Francis, who hit the deck to retrieve it early in the second half.
The ball dribbled out of bounds. Francis’s momentum carried him into the table’s base. He stayed down for several seconds, apparently recovering from the impact.
This was not only an uncomfortable episode for Francis. Anyone who wants to see the Spiders progress with enough healthy backcourt players to challenge for an Atlantic 10 championship must have momentarily felt as
shaken as Francis.
“It didn’t affect me that much. I just was a little tired. I just needed a little breather,” Francis said Thursday. In harm’s way or winded, there’s a concern.
Richmond announced before its 80- 74 win at Davidson that 6- foot- 4 Andre Gustavson, the team’s sixth man, would miss the game with a groin strain. Those can linger. Then came less pleasant news. UR’s next backcourt reserve, 6- 6 Connor Crabtree, will miss 10 to 12 weeks after suffering a fractured right foot.
In mid- October, 6- 4 starter Nick Sherod went down with a season- ending knee injury.
“Three months ago, I thought we were the deepest team in America,” UR coach Chris Mooney said. “And now we’re down a starter, a sixth man, and a seventh man. That’s a lot.”
Care must be taken, Francis appreciates, about how hard and how often he and Jacob Gilyard, the Spiders’ other starting guard, throw their bodies around during the remaining 17 A- 10 games.
Francis missed nearly four weeks last season with a fractured sternum sustained when he was involved in a loose- ball pileup with Saint Louis as a Robins Center guest on Jan. 11.
Heading into Saturday’s date with visiting
St. Bonaventure ( 2- 1, 0- 1 A- 10), Francis leads Richmond ( 7- 2, 1- 0) in scoring ( 16 ppg) and demonstrated his big- shot knack by hitting an outcome- icing 3 with 46 seconds left at Davidson. Gilyard averages 11.4 points, 5.9 assists and 3.9 steals, and no Spider plays more ( 37.5 mpg).
In addition to physical problems, Gilyard and Francis aim to steer clear of foul problems and, of course, viral infections of any variety.
“You’ve got to be smarter on defense. Don’t pick up any cheap fouls or anything like that,” Francis said.
Mooney inserted freshman guard Isaiah Wilson for Francis with 16: 22 left in the first half of the Davidson game. Wilson played a bit less than two minutes and committed two turnovers and a foul. Mooney sent Francis back in. Wilson participated in four minutes total.
“I need to give the [ reserves] opportunities more when they make a mistake. That’s the key,” Mooney said. “It’s easy to put them in there and if things are going great, then leave them in there. But I need to give them more opportunities when things aren’t going well.”
Apart from Richmond’s 82- 64 season- opening win over Morehead State and an 87- 71 loss at West Virginia, the Spiders have been involved in close games, which Mooney said has narrowed his path for providing young players experience.
“They need to do their best, and I need to give them those opportunities,” the coach said. “I need to be clear with them that I’m doing that, and then hold myself to it because those guys can help. They’re good players, and we’re going to need them.”
Notes: The St. Bonaventure- UR game, which starts at 5 p. m., will be televised by the CBS Sports Network… The Bonnies, picked fourth in the A- 10 preseason poll, have played only three games because of COVID issues. They feature two of the league’s top players in 6- 3 junior Kyle Lofton ( 15.3 ppg, 5 apg) and 6- 10 junior Osun Osunniyi ( 15.7 ppg, 8 rpg, 2.3 bpg). ... Mooney goes for his 300th Division I victory. His record is 299- 236 ... He said he was “hopeful” that Gustavson could play.
“Three months ago, I thought we were the deepest teamin America.” Chris Mooney, Richmond coach who will be going for his 300th win in Saturday’s game vs. St. Bonaventure