Not wanting a repeat of last year's one-and-done stay at the Atlantic 10 basketball tournament, the Richmond Spiders put together one of their best halves of basketball of the season as they raced out to a 16 point halftime lead against Fordham in a 2nd round matchup.
But the second half malaise that has plagued the Spiders over the second half of their season nearly did them in once again. Fordham began the 2nd half on a 16-4 run and closed the gap to 1 point with just over 8 minutes remaining before Chris Mooney's team righted the ship and pulled away for the 70-55 win.
"If you're up 16 at the half in a conference tournament game, you're likely not going to win by 32" Mooney said after the win. "It's much more likely that a team is going to make a run and cut into your lead."
"When it got tight, we just looked at each other and said 'Let's get this done'" said forward T.J. Cline. "This is what we came here to do and we're not going out in the first [game]"
The Rams got as close as 1, but never took the lead in the 2nd half, thanks to 17 points each from Cline and ShawnDre' Jones. Terry Allen and Khwan Fore added 10 apiece and the Spiders as a team forced 14 turnovers and had 9 steals.
They were without forward Marshall Wood who was in a car accident on Sunday and suffered a concussion. He will not be able to return until Saturday at the earliest as he goes through the NCAA's concussion protocol. In his place, Fore got the start, and three Spider reserves combined for 14 points in 36 minutes of action.
"They were huge" Cline said. "When you lose Marshall, that hurts us because you lose a perimeter shooter. When you have Julius (Jones, 8 points) come in and show his ability to hit the 3, I don't want to say you don't lose anything, but it definitely helps."
"Julius was great" Mooney added. "Starting Khwan gave us a chance to bring Deion (Taylor, 6 points in 18 minutes) off the bench. When you get in a tournament, the depth and extending the bench become that much more critical."
Next up for the Spiders is a Friday matchup against top seeded Dayton. The Spiders lost to the Flyers on March 1st 85-84, a game in which they held an 11 point lead with just under 12 minutes to play.
"I think there's some confidence there because we played very well against a great team" Mooney said. "And we have the opportunity again [Friday]"