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Richmond falls to La Salle in return from COVID-19 pause

richmond basketballRichmond, returning from a two-week COVID-19 pause, dropped an 84-78 decision to La Salle in Atlantic 10 action Saturday at the Robins Center.

“We were a little bit slow to the ball, a little bit slow reacting,” Richmond coach Chris Mooney said. “We didn’t shoot well, but there’s no excuse. This is the hand that we were dealt and we had a challenge to meet and we didn’t quite meet it.”

The Spiders shot 41 percent from the field for the game and missed 12 of their first 13 three-point attempts in the second half. Grant Golden scored a game-high 22 points for Richmond, while Blake Francis chipped in 21.

With the loss, Richmond fell to 9-4 on the year and 3-2 in conference play while La Salle improved to 7-8 on the season and 4-4 in the Atlantic 10.

“La Salle played very well,” Mooney said. “They had energy and fed off of some of their big plays.”

Richmond showed few signs of rust early, exploiting the Explorers zone defense to build a 29-22 lead 13 minutes into the game. But La Salle flipped the script and used a 9-0 run to take the lead at 31-29 at the 4:54 mark. In the last 4:30 of the first half, the squads exchanged the lead five times, but a fast-break layup by Tyler Burton with 31 seconds left gave the Spiders the halftime lead, 40-39.

Golden scored the first bucket of the second half but La Salle responded with a 14-2 run in three minutes of game action to take a 53-46 lead. The Spiders worked to chip away at the Explorers advantage, taking the lead back with 7:24 remaining after a three-pointer by Francis made the score 59-57 in favor of Richmond. The teams stayed close for the next three minutes before La Salle took control with six straight points to build its lead to nine with 1:33 to play. Despite hitting a trio of three-pointers in the final 90 seconds, the Spiders never pulled closer than four as the Explorers held on for the 84-78 win.

“Seventy-eight points should be enough,” Mooney said. “Our defense was what really hurt us and didn’t carry the day. We’re disappointed in that we didn’t play better defensively and didn’t get as many stops as we needed.”

The Spiders were 24-of-24 from the free-throw line in the loss, setting team records for most free throws without a miss in a game and most consecutive free throws made in a game. Entering Saturday, the program record for free throws without a miss was a 16-16 showing from the foul line against VMI on Feb. 2, 1989.

Richmond’s 24 straight makes from the foul line beat out the 22 consecutive free throws the Spiders made in a game against Virginia on Dec. 19, 1969.

Next, the Spiders head on the road to face Saint Joseph’s Tuesday in Philadelphia. Tip is set for 6:00 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN Plus, NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus, and WTRV 6.3 in Richmond.


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