Spiders riding upturn into test
Richmond will gauge its improvement against VCU’s depth
Grant Golden visited his coach’s office on Sunday, Feb. 3, the day after a 5-14 La Salle team outscored the University of Richmond 16-5 in the last seven minutes and won 6658. That was the Spiders’ sixth straight home-court loss.
Coach Chris Mooney delivered to Golden, a sophomore forward, the same message he has all season.
“He tells me all the time, ‘Just tell [teammates] to keep pushing. Keep going,’” Golden said. “We’ve got young guys that are coming along.
“We’ve just got to keep plugging away, keep getting better, and keep trying to get wins under our belt.
“That’s the only thing we
Two Robins Center wins — Wednesday’s 81-67 victory over George Mason and Saturday’s 89-63 romp over George Washington — followed that disheartening defeat to La Salle, and put the Spiders (1014, 4-7 A-10) in as good a place as they’ve been all season. An excellent gauge of their progress arrives with Wednesday’s visit to VCU (17-6, 8-2 A-10), tied for the league lead with Davidson (17-6, 8-2 A-10). The Rams have won four straight and six of their past seven.
“When you play a rivalry like this, it’s just different, no matter when it comes in the season, no matter who’s doing what during the course of the last few games,” said Mooney, whose Spiders beat VCU twice last year.
Richmond was outrebounded in all but four of its first 23 games. The Spiders handled GW on the glass 32-18, in part because UR shot a seasonhigh 62.3 percent.
Richmond hit 13 3s Saturday, stung the Colonials in transition, and Spiders’ reserves scored 26, their most since an 82-47 win over Coppin State on Dec. 5.
“One advantage of being inexperienced is the guys are hungry to learn and be good,” said Mooney, who starts three sophomores and two freshmen. “We’ve tried to talk about, ‘Let’s just focus on our team, on our guys, and make sure we come to practice every day and play hard.’ The guys have been great with that, and I give Grant Golden a lot of credit for that.”
The Spiders’ bench players came alive in the past two games, which seems an important development heading into Wednesday in light of VCU’s impressive depth. UR’s Souleymane “Sal” Koureissi, a 6-foot-9 freshman, put together backto-back solid games. He scored 10 points with five rebounds Saturday. Matt Grace, another 6-9 freshmen, gave the 6-10, 265pound Golden the rest he needs without a debilitating drop-off.
Senior guard Julius Johnson returned from a two-game absence (calf injury) to hit three 3-pointers against GW.
“Sal came in and made a couple of big shots, and then having Julius back really helps on both ends,” said UR’s 5-9 Jacob Gilyard.
In his past five games, Gilyard averaged 21.6 points. In his past two, he totaled 45 points, 11 assists and 10 steals.
“The challenge is his speed. He does a great job of getting downhill and making things happen with his feet in the paint and drawing and kicking to teammates,” GW coach Maurice Joseph said. “It’s really his foot speed and his aggressive nature. He’s a talented kid.
“What he lacks in size, he makes up for in heart and foot speed and agility.”
In his past two games, Richmond 5-foot-9 guard Jacob Gilyard totaled 45 points, 11 assists and 10 steals.