With its Nov. 29 win at then-No. 10 Kentucky, Richmond made a statement that caught the attention of college basketball.
In the week since, however, the 19th-ranked Spiders have been quieted by the dominant force of 2020: COVID-19. A trio of positive tests in the program — none of them from players — led to the postponement of contests against the College of Charleston and Furman and left Richmond in need of games.
So the Spiders found an opponent riding starboard in the same boat, and will resume their season Monday after an eight-day break with a home game against Wofford.
The big question is whether the Spiders (2-0) can regain the form they showed not in beating Kentucky 76-64, but in their 82-64 season-opening romp over Morehead State on Nov. 27. They not only hit shots in the two wins, shooting 49.2 percent from the field, but also committed just 22 turnovers while forcing 40 and limiting opponents to 39.5 percent marksmanship from the field.
Part of the reason Richmond has been so solid defensively, according to coach Chris Mooney, has been the play of senior point guard Jacob Gilyard. Although Gilyard is just 9 of 26 from the field and 1 of 14 on 3-pointers so far, his greatest impact has come in ball-handling and defense.
Gilyard owns an assist-to-turnover ratio of nearly 4-to-1, and has nearly three times as many steals (eight) as turnovers (three). What’s more, he led Division I with 3.2 steals per game last season and could set the all-time NCAA mark for steals before his career ends.
“Blocking shots is a really intimidating stat traditionally, but a steal and a layup is what I would think is the most intimidating stat, or the most difficult thing to overcome, for the other team,” Mooney said recently.
Offensively, the Spiders have been led by Nathan Cayo, who has canned 18 of 23 shots from the field and is averaging 20.5 points. They’re also getting consistent offense from Blake Francis (15.5 ppg) and versatile forward Grant Golden (14.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists).
Wofford (2-0) also boasts some gaudy offensive numbers, in part because the Terriers started the season with a pair of blowouts over non-Division I programs Toccoa Falls College and Carver College. Five players are averaging in double figures for the Terriers, who enter the game averaging 99.5 points.
The marquee name is point guard Storm Murphy, who’s scoring 17.5 points per game and shooting 65 percent from the field. He’s the leading returner from a 19-16 team that reached the Southern Conference finals as the No. 7 seed before falling to 30-win East Tennessee State.
Second-year coach Jay McAuley was happy with his team’s approach in a 111-37 rout of Carver on Nov. 28.
“Our effort and attention to detail both offensively and defensively was what we wanted to do,” he said.
This will be the fourth meeting between Richmond and Wofford. The Spiders won the first three, including a 64-58 decision on Nov. 20, 2012.
–Field Level Media