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Richmond Spiders rally falls short in 72-67 loss to Saint Louis

richmond basketballRichmond erased a 13-point deficit before faltering down the stretch in a 72-67 loss to Saint Louis on Friday night at Chaifetz Arena.

Blake Francis matched a career best with six three-pointers and led Richmond with 24 points in the loss.
“I think we fought hard,” said Francis. “A couple of balls didn’t go our way, but that’s the game of basketball.”

In a meeting of teams picked to finish first and second in the league this preseason, Saint Louis struck first on Friday. The Billikens jumped out to a 6-0 lead as the Spiders missed their first four shots from the floor. Francis and Nathan Cayo answered for the Spiders, combining to score Richmond’s first 13 points as the Spiders fought back to tie the game at 13 with a little more than 10 minutes to play in the opening half.

From there, Saint Louis seized control with a 13-0 run to open up a 26-13 lead. The Billikens led by nine at halftime and held Richmond to just 24 points in the first half, tied for the fewest by the Spiders in any half this season.

Grant Golden, who played with a glove and splint on his left hand after breaking his middle finger against UMass on Tuesday, had no points in the first half but scored just 28 seconds into the second half, connecting on a short hook shot. He scored again on the Spiders next possession, and then kickstarted a 9-0 Spiders run with four straight points just minutes later.

“I thought he played like a warrior,” said Spiders head coach Chris Mooney of Golden. “He’s somebody who – as we expect – would come out and give a great effort in spite of the fact that he was hurting.” Golden finished with 10 points, all in the second half, and a team-high five assists.

A three-pointer by Francis with 13:19 to play pulled the Spiders within one at 43-42, and Richmond took its first lead just over a minute later on another three-pointer from Francis.

With four minutes remaining, the Spiders still led, at 62-61. But the Billikens sandwiched a pair of layups in the paint around a three-pointer from Fred Thatch Jr. to seize control of the game down the stretch en route to a 72-67 win. Saint Louis hit four of its final five field goals attempts to end the game, while Richmond missed each of its last five shots from the field.

The Spiders held a 17-5 lead in points scored off turnovers in the game, but were outreboudned by the Billikens 41-21, leading to an 11-0 advantage in second-chance points for Saint Louis.

“There were a lot of positive things,” said Mooney. “There was fight. And grit. … We put ourselves right back in position and had one of our best stretches of the season there in the second half.”

Nathan Cayo also finished in double figures for Richmond, totaling 10 points. Jacob Gilyard scored eight points with four assists. His three steals gave Gilyard 343 for his career, moving him into 11th place on the all-time list in NCAA Division I.

The Spiders will play their final game of the regular season Monday vs Saint Joseph’s at the Robins Center. Tip time is 6 PM and the game can be seen on NBC Sports Washington and ESPN Plus.

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