Spi­ders rid­ing up­turn into test

Rich­mond will gauge its im­prove­ment against VCU’s depth

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - SPORTS - BY JOHN O’CON­NOR

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

can do.”

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.”

MARK GORMUS/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

In his past two games, Rich­mond 5-foot-9 guard Ja­cob Gil­yard to­taled 45 points, 11 as­sists and 10 steals.

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