Richmond upset in first round of NCAA Tournament
Members of the University of Richmond basketball team watch the final seconds of the game. Richmond lost to St. Mary's College, 80-71, in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — It was the last time playing for Richmond for seniors David Gonzalvez and Ryan Butler, but the team knows that it won’t be the last of the Spiders in the NCAA Tournament.
“The biggest thing to take away from this is we all know what it feels like to make it this far and come up a little short or lose in the NCAA Tournament,” junior Justin Harper said. “It helps that we all gained experience for when we make it here again next year.”
Senior Ryan Butler walks off the court one final time in a Spiders uniform after fouling out late during the second half of Richmond's 80-71 loss to Saint Mary's. Butler scored 14 points and went 4-6 from 3-point range.
The No. 7 Spiders were upset in their first round game against No. 10 Saint Mary’s College 80-71 Thursday afternoon here in Providence.
Saint Mary’s 6-foot-11 senior center Omar Samhan created problems all game long for the Spiders. Not only did he score 29 points and grab 12 rebounds, but his presence also forced Richmond to collapse on him at times and left the Gaels open for 3-pointers.
“You can’t help him too much or you’re going to give up a wide-open 3,” Harper said. “So it’s pretty much a tough job … to guard a big man that can finish like he can.”
But for much of the game, Richmond coach Chris Mooney had his team guard Samhan one-on-one. And for Samhan that was a surprise.
“After I got going [offensively] they didn’t double me,” Samhan said. “I haven’t seen that a lot this year.”
The Spiders could not double Samhan because of the Gaels’ 3-point shooting ability. Entering the game, the Gaels shot 41 percent from 3-point range and during the game, SMC went 8-19 (42 percent).
The Gaels turned to the 3-point shot only when Samhan picked up his third personal foul with six minutes remaining during the first half. At that time, the Spiders were up 26-22 and Samhan had amounted 17 of the Gaels’ points. But during the rest of the half, SMC junior Mickey McConnell scored eight points while two other Gaels scored to tie the game at 36 at halftime.
During the second half, Samhan scored 12 points, but with McConnell and sophomore Clint Steindl hitting their shots, Samhan did not need to have as strong of an offensive half. McConnell finished with 23 points on 7-14 shooting (5-9 from 3-point range) and Steindl added 11 points, nine of which came from the 3-point line.
But Samhan’s presence affected more than the offense for St. Mary’s. His 12 rebounds were only five fewer than Richmond collected as a team. The Gaels had 40 rebounds during the game, 19 of which were offensive.
Click here to view a gallery of photos from the game between Richmond and St. Mary's.
“[Samhan's] ability to impact the game so much right from the beginning had us not only worried about him and worried about 3-point shooters, and I thought they were a little quicker to the ball than us,” Mooney said. “And to get that many second shots in a game, it’s just too many to give up. I do think a lot of it had to do with how much we were concentrating on him.”
This was Richmond’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2004 when, as a No. 11 seed, it lost to No. 6 University of Wisconsin. The No. 7 spot was the highest the team has ever been seeded.
But the high seed may have actually hurt the Spiders. Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said he felt that playing Richmond would be a good match-up for his team.
“The only teams that beat us were [those] that have pretty big bigs,” he said. “I thought our guards do a good job of moving the ball around and putting it inside. We had to make sure we didn’t turn it over.”
The Gaels did a good job of not turning the ball over and giving Richmond easy points. Saint Mary’s turned the ball over 13 times and Richmond stole the ball six times. It led to 13 points for Richmond, but that was not enough to cover for the 21-4 discrepancy in second chance points in favor of the Gaels.
“We couldn’t get the stops we normally get,” junior Kevin Anderson said.
Senior David Gonzalvez gets greeted by redshirt freshman Zak Estes as he heads to the bench one last time as a Spider. Gonzalvez checked out of the game with less than a minute remaining to a standing ovation from the Richmond fans.
Richmond started off the game well and took a 9-2 lead less than two minutes into the game. But after Bennett called a time out, Samhan scored eight unanswered points to put his team up 10-9. Samhan would go on to score 12 of the Gaels first 14 points.
Richmond ends its season on a two-game losing streak. In the Atlantic 10 final, the Spiders fell 56-52 to Temple University in Atlantic City, N.J. Although it was a disappointing end to the season, Gonzalvez was still proud of his team.
“We fought hard throughout this season,” Gonzalvez said. “Even from the offseason last summer, guys worked hard in the weight room to put on some weight. … I’m still really proud of my team and the success we had this year. I expect it to continue.”
That success included the most wins — 26 — in program history. The Spiders also were ranked in the AP Poll for the first time in 24 years two weeks earlier this year.
Gonzalvez finished his last game as a Spider with a team-high 18 points. Butler, his fellow senior, added 14 points and Anderson contributed 16 points. But that trio was not enough to overcome the duo of Samhan and McConnell.
It was not the end that Mooney wanted for his season, but he has faith that his team will make it again to the NCAA Tournament.
“I think this is a very important and significant for us as not a final destination, but a step,” he said.
With Anderson, the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, Harper, and five other members who saw significant playing time this year returning next year, the future is still bright for the Spiders.
And maybe once again, the one-time ‘Giant Killers’ will be the giants in the NCAA Tournament next year.
Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at firstname.lastname@example.org