The return of sophomore Brittani Shells was not enough to lead the University of Richmond women’s basketball team to a victory over No. 21 Xavier University as the Spiders fell 68-55.
Shells had missed the previous two games with a finger injury and looked rusty Saturday afternoon at the Robins Center, going 2-14 from the field and finishing with seven points.
“She hadn’t played or practiced in a week,” Richmond coach Michael Shafer said. “She is still injured. At the same time, we were without Sam Bilney.”
Bilney is out for the remainder of the year with a knee injury, which Shafer said hurt the team because she can play about 30 minutes a game.
Richmond’s only lead was 2-0 with 18:03 left in the first half. Xavier then rattled off eight straight points, and Richmond was never able to recover.
The Musketeers led by as many as 11 during the first half and went into the break leading by nine.
Richmond seemed to get the momentum before the half, when sophomore Rebecca Kretchman hit her first three-pointer of the year — and only the second of her career — with 45 seconds left in the half, cutting the Xavier lead to six.
But momentum was taken right back by Xavier when senior Tudy Reed drove the lane and hit a lay-up. She was also fouled by senior Augustina Zygaite and hit the free-throw to give the Musketeers their nine-point lead back.
Richmond was undone by its inability to force turnovers. The Spiders came into the game averaging 11 steals per game, but was only able to get six Saturday afternoon.
Senior Johanna McKnight scored a season-high 17 points, all of which came during the second half. She scored 12 points in a span of about six minutes to cut a 12-point Xavier lead to two.
“I felt like I needed to step up,” McKnight said. “Everybody had to step up their own way on the team. I feel like I stepped up pretty big tonight, even though I came out in the first half with two fouls. I felt like I let my team down just a little bit, but then I got to come back in and get back in the game.”
That two-point deficit was the closest Richmond would get to Xavier. Freshman Tyeasha Moss hit a three the next time down the court for the Musketeers, giving them back momentum. Sophomore Special Jennings then hit a fast-break lay-up to give Xavier a seven-point lead.
“They are a good basketball team,” Shafer said. “We needed to make stops and rebounds. There are a couple of loose ball rebounds that we didn’t get there in the zone [defense] and there was a couple of three’s they hit. That’s what good basketball teams do, they hit shots to answer runs. We were making a run and they hit shots. I thought we contested a couple of them and they still went in.”
The loss drops Richmond one spot to seventh in the Atlantic 10 Conference standings. The Spiders have a 5-4 record in conference play and a 17-7 record overall.
Xavier extended its winning streak to 11. The Musketeers have not lost since Dec. 21 at Arizona State University and lead the A-10 with a perfect 8-0 conference record and a 20-4 overall record.
Freshman Abby Oliver was the only other Richmond player to score in double-figures. She finished with 11 points during her third-straight game starting.
A crowd of 917 was at the game, well over the home average of 661.
Richmond does not have another game until noon Saturday at the University of Rhode Island.
Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at email@example.com