First-half score: University of Richmond- 35, Xavier University- 34
Important Stats: UR’s Kendall Anthony (4-5, 11 pts), Alonzo Nelson-Ododa (5 pts, 5 rebounds), XU’s Travis Taylor (7-9, 15 pts), XU leading points in the paint, 22-8.
Analysis: Richmond made the free throws it wanted to make down the stretch, while Xavier did not.
“We make free throws when we need to miss them, and we miss free throws when we need to make them,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said.
Musketeers freshman Semaj Christon missed two free throws with 50 seconds remaining with his team trailing, 64-62. Xavier forward Travis Taylor, who scored a game-high 24 points, made two separate free throws he was trying to miss, once four seconds remaining and again two seconds later. He was trying to miss to give his team a chance to get the offensive rebound.
Richmond, meanwhile made 9-12 free throw attempts in the final minute and 25-31 overall on its way to the 73-71 victory.
“We practice [free throws] everyday,” said Richmond guard Darien Brothers, who was 8-9 from the free throw line. “It’s just a mental thing. We all have confidence in each other that we’re going to make them.”
The lead changed 15 times during the game, along with nine times that the game was tied. Neither team led by more than five points during the second half, but in the first half, it looked like Richmond might dominate early.
The Spiders built a 20-9 lead with its strong outside shooting, but the Musketeers went on a 20-9 run of their own to tie the game with 2:25 remaining, capped with a dunk by Taylor. Taylor was dominant in the first half, finishing with 15 points, forcing Richmond to adjust.
“We basically wanted to double [Taylor] in the post,” Richmond’s Alonzo Nelson-Ododa said. “He was going baseline a lot, and we didn’t want him to do that. We had to limit his offensive rebounds and second-chance points.”
Nelson-Ododa had his best game of the season, coach Chris Mooney said. The freshman center totaled 13 points, eight rebounds and four blocks.
The last time Xavier led it was ahead, 59-58, with 3:30 remaining. That’s when Richmond forward Greg Robbins took a pass from a driving Cedrick Lindsay in the corner and made the three-pointer.
“Those ones are easy because they’re in rhythm,” Robbins said.
After a timeout and a Xavier turnover, Lindsay drove into the lane again, this time making an acrobatic layup while getting fouled. He made the free throw to put the Spiders ahead, 64-59.
Robbins (10 points) and Lindsay (12 points) were two of five Richmond players to finish in double digits scoring. Guard Kendall Anthony, who led the Spiders with 16 points, came into the game questionable with a bruised knee.
Anthony and the rest of his team now gets a week off. Richmond (14-9, 4-4) won’t play again until Saturday, when Saint Louis visits the Robins Center, with tip-off set for 6 p.m.
What to look for in the second half: Look for Richmond to come out shooting, not a big surprise there — it’s what the Spiders do best. Look for Mooney to try to also switch up the looks defensively to possibly get multiple defenders on Taylor when he has the ball. Also, look for Christon to have a more productive half, as he is getting decent looks and showing aggressiveness.
Contact staff writer David Weissman at email@example.com