Apparent game-tying three waved off: Richmond loses heartbreaker to Saint Joseph’s
Matt Grace’s corner three-pointer dropped cleanly through the net as the buzzer echoed through a mostly empty Robins Center shortly after 8 p.m. Monday evening, sending the Spiders bench erupting onto the court to celebrate the apparent game-tying shot by the junior forward.
Moments later, officials reviewed Grace’s jumper and ruled that it was released just after the clock ticked to 0.0, giving Saint Joseph’s a wild 76-73 win.
Playing the second half without its leading scorer and the final 10 minutes of the game without its second-leading scorer, Richmond relied on Nathan Cayo, who scored a career-high 25 points in 34 minutes. Cayo also registered the 1,000th point of his career early in the first half, minutes after the Spiders honored the seven members of their senior class in a pregame ceremony.
Cayo and the Spiders started slowly, as Richmond missed its first seven shots from the field, allowing Saint Joseph’s to grab an early 6-0 lead. After the game, Spiders head coach Chris Mooney said the inability to get easy buckets early cost the Spiders.
“We really tried to throw the ball inside and establish ourselves inside and early we missed a lot of those shots around the basket,” said Mooney.
The layup that put Cayo over the 1,000-point mark came with 10:17 to play in the first half and was part of an 11-0 Spiders run that tied the game at 16. But the Hawks answered, outscoring Richmond 18-9 over the final eight minutes of the first half and taking a 34-25 lead into the locker oom at halftime.
Blake Francis, who entered Monday averaging a team-high 16.9 points per game, landed hard on his back on a layup attempt midway through the first half. Francis tried to return later in the half, but was ultimately forced from the game with a back contusion.
“I put him back in and he was in pain,” said Mooney. “During halftime he iced it and we thought maybe he would be able to come back out but it was just a little bit too painful.”
Francis was joined on the Spiders sideline midway through the second half by Grant Golden, who was attempting to play with a fractured middle finger on his left hand suffered Tuesday against Massachusetts. Golden entered Monday averaging 13.2 points per game, second on the team.
With its two leading scorers on the bench, Cayo and the Spiders were able to chip away at the Hawks lead, drawing even at 59 on a layup by Cayo with just over five minutes remaining. A three-pointer by Saint Joseph’s on the ensuing possession but the Hawks back in front.
Cayo and Jacob Gilyard, who scored 14 of Richmond’s final 16 points, kept the Spiders close, and the stage was set for Grace’s near miracle when Isiah Wilson scored on a putback and was fouled with 1.7 seconds remaining. With Richmond trailing by three, Wilson intentionally missed his free throw and the ball deflected out of bounds off Saint Joseph’s, giving Richmond possession under its own basket with 0.4 seconds remaining.
Grace used a screen from Gilyard to find space in the corner, but was unable to get the shot off in time.
With the loss, Richmond fell to the eighth seed in this week’s Atlantic 10 Championship. The Spiders will face ninth-seeded Duquesne Thursday at 11 AM on NBC Sports Network at the Siegel Center on the campus of VCU.