Colonials’ second-half comeback falls short against Richmond

Interim head coach Maurice Joseph talks to Tyler Cavanaugh during GW's win over USF on Dec. 3. Cavanaugh led GW with 22 points against Richmond Sunday as the Colonials fell 77-70. Dan Rich | Photo Editor
Interim head coach Maurice Joseph talks with graduate student forward Tyler Cavanaugh during GW’s win over USF on Dec. 3. Cavanaugh led GW with 22 points in Sunday afternoon’s loss to Richmond. Hatchet file photo by Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Through their first two Atlantic 10 games, the Richmond Spiders demonstrated their offensive ability, defeating Davidson and Fordham and maintaining the league’s best field goal percentage.

On Sunday afternoon, despite an impressive second-half rally, men’s basketball was unable to keep up with the powerful scoring machine that is the Spiders’ roster. Richmond finished with a 77–70 win behind a balanced attack that boasted four starters who scored between 14 points or more.

“[Richmond] shot lights-out, but I thought defensively that our attention to detail and focus just wasn’t there,” interim head coach Maurice Joseph said. “I need to a better job and figure out how to get guys to lock-in and understand what we need to do.”

Although the Spiders (9-6, 3-0 A-10) led by 23 with just 13 minutes remaining, GW never quit and mounted a game-altering comeback. The Colonials (9-7, 1-2 A-10) raced back with a 17-4 run in less than six minutes to make it an eight-point game.

Ultimately, Richmond could be slowed down but not stopped. In the victory, the Spiders shot a stellar 61.5 percent from the floor compared to 45.3 on the game for the Colonials.

“It was just too little, too late,” Joseph said. “I knew we would fight back, that’s what we do, we have done it all year…If we had a couple more shots fall for us I thought we would have had a chance, it might be a different outcome, but they rimmed out and that’s going to happen.”

During the run, Joseph decided to play small to keep up with the fast-paced Spiders offense. He counted on freshman guard Jair Bolden to play 14 second-half minutes including pressuring the Richmond guards during crunch time.

“We had to go small and match up on the perimeter,” Joseph said. “Jair is a tough kid, a tough defender. I knew that he would be a person who could match up with [Richmond guard De’Monte] Buckingham and fight over screens.”

Richmond seemed to be knocking down just about every three-pointer it put up during the matchup, especially in the first half. They finished 8-for-15 from behind the arc including a 7-for-10 clip before halftime.

Graduate student forward Tyler Cavanaugh led the Colonials on the night with a game-high 22 points and a team-high 7 rebounds and 4 assists. He had the Colonials’ only three baskets from behind the three-point line in the first half and finished 7-for-7 from the charity stripe.

Early in the game both sides were able to find openings. Freshman center Collin Smith piled up six quick points on the interior. Richmond also found empty lanes. Buckingham reached the rim without contestation multiple times in the opening minutes.

The Colonials never had the lead, but the game remained within striking distance for several minutes. After a three from Cavanaugh and free throws from freshman forward Arnaldo Toro, Richmond only led by one point, 19–18.

Then, the Spiders turned up the fire offensively, piling up 15 unanswered points, including four three-pointers, giving them a 34–18 lead. The GW defense appeared unable to counteract the hot shooting.

“We didn’t play good defense tonight. We didn’t follow the scouting report. They got easy buckets,” Cavanaugh said. “Myself included, we did not defend.”

The Colonials offensive struggles stretched out for even longer than the run. They did not connect on a field goal for more than nine minutes and looked disorganized while attacking the basket.

Near the end of the half, from Cavanaugh’s scoring and a better defensive stint, GW was able to bring the margin to 40–29 at the break.

Any momentum that the Colonials picked up at the end of the first frame was lost almost immediately. Richmond went on a 6-0 run in the first two minutes of the half and brought the margin to 19 points before the first media timeout.

During GW’s second half run, its defense stepped up as the crowd got them re-energized. For nearly seven minutes, the Colonials looked in absolute control as every shot attempt the Spiders took was difficult and challenged.

With just under five minutes remaining in the contest, redshirt junior Jaren Sina had a chance at a three-pointer to cut the difference to four points. Richmond responded with two layups and a free throw, ballooning the lead to 74–62.

GW made one final run, with Sina sinking a three to make it 74–70, the closest score in the second half. It was not enough as a missed three by junior guard Yuta Watanabe and a made free throw by Richmond closed out the night.

“We are going to play [Richmond] again. I sat and let them listen to Richmond [celebrate] through the walls. I didn’t say anything for about three minutes,” Joseph said. “I want them to understand that we are going to have another crack at them in their gym. I want them to understand we can’t come out lackadaisical, we can’t blame it on the early start of the game, you can’t blame it on any of those things.”

The Colonials will kick off a two-game road trip Wednesday at VCU. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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