Richmond Spiders Game Preview and Q&A

Posted In News - By Alan Kelly On Saturday, February 14th, 2015 With 0 Comments

After a two-game road trip that saw them lose at St. Joseph’s and at Davidson, the George Mason Patriots (7-16, 2-9 A10) return home for homecoming this afternoon, as they take on the Richmond Spiders (13-11, 6-5 A10) at 4pm on MASN. Mason will look to break out of a 1-9 skid over their last 10 games, and to add to Richmond’s road woes — the Spiders are 1-8 away from the Robbins Center this season.

Last month, the Patriots dropped a frustrating game at the Robbins Center, out-rebounding the Spiders by 20 but falling behind 42-23 at the half and never fully recovering. Shevon Thompson, who will once again be a key to Mason’s chances at victory, had 19 points and 17 rebounds in the January 8 loss.

A season ago, George Mason won its only meeting with the Spiders, 69-60 in Fairfax, after jumping out to a 37-16 halftime lead and holding on despite a hot-shooting second half from Kendall Anthony and ShawnDre Jones.

Richmond starting forward Alonzo Nelson-Ododa (6’9″ 235 lbs.) will miss the game today with a broken bone in his face, which will further limit an undersized roster with a weak frontcourt presence. Last month, the Spiders shot so much better than the Patriots that their size disadvantages didn’t matter. Mason will need to pound the ball into the paint and not get drawn into a jumpshooting contest.

To learn a bit more about earlier this week I asked Dan (@theWaterspout) from The Waterspout to answer some questions about Richmond Spiders hoops. At 5’8″ tall, Kendall Anthony leads Richmond and is third in the conference in scoring, at 19 points per game in A10 contests. What makes Anthony so successful?

Dan: First off, Kendall’s listed at 5’8″. His success begins and ends with his speed. He’s faster than everyone else on the floor. He uses his speed to create space, lose defenders on cuts off the ball, beat people off the dribble, and then get his shot off before they can close/react. It feels like he’s playing in fast forward at times. Then he matches that with a great jumper, so shots fall. Add in his free throw shooting ability, knack for getting to the basket and getting his shot off (not as good as Kevin Anderson, but close) and nerves of steal, and he’s a headache for opponents. The Spiders are not a good rebounding team (KenPom 344th in offensive rebound rate and 236th in defensive rebound rate), and last time around, the Patriots out-rebounded Richmond 39-19. How can they contend with Mason’s size advantage down low?

Dan: They can’t. And the indefinite loss of Alonzo Nelson-Ododa (broken orbital bone) only exacerbates the rebounding problem – and depth issues if anyone in the frontcourt gets in foul trouble. Terry Allen has hit the boards hard(er) recently, and Josh Jones had an excellent high energy game against Fordham on Wednesday. Jones will need to sustain that work rate. But really Richmond’s best hope to be competitive on the glass is to shoot well – be patient, run their sets, take quality/high percentage shots – and then hope they can win the race to some of the long rebounds. I’ve given up that UR will ever be a force on the glass under Mooney. The hope is they just don’t get killed giving up three or four bites at the apple for opponents. Patriots fans saw one of the Spiders’ strengths on full display when the two teams met in Richmond last month, as the home team shot 55.8% for the game and made 7-14 treys. What are some other strengths and weaknesses of this year’s team?

Dan: This team can play defense. Well. They’ll miss Nelson-Ododa’s size and ability to protect the rim, but this is Mooney’s best defensive team in several years. They can shoot the lights out when they sustain movement and cuts to create open looks on offense. They also take care of the ball, don’t turn it over or make a lot of careless mistakes, and force opponents to beat them. They’re really good (with one or two exceptions – Trey Davis, Josh Jones) from the free throw line. But they’re a typical Mooney team: they don’t rebound well, they play small, and some nights the jumpers just don’t fall. The Spiders’ road woes are well documented by this point, and their only road win this season came when VCU let the Spiders wear their home whites at the Siegel Center. Is there any rhyme or reason to why Richmond can’t seem to win on the road?

Dan: That’s the million dollar question. This Spider team in particular has a knack for playing, and often losing, really close games. I think a lot of it comes down to the offense. As good as Anthony and ShawnDre Jones are behind the arc, and Terry Allen’s been much better of late inside, the team can still go cold and struggle to score for long stretches. They’re good for at least one, if not two, three- or four-minute scoring droughts a game. That seems to haunt them especially on the road. The team lacks the consistent, go-to scorer who can create points at will. Terry Allen has tried to do this more, but less late in games. TJ Cline could help here, but is a little young to demand the ball on this team. There are still moments where the team looks a little lost and a little undecided on offense. Richmond now has a live tarantula mascot, in addition to the costumed one. How did that idea become a reality, and how long until Tarrant goes missing during a game?

Dan: Jamal Brunt, associate head coach, gets credit for coming up with the idea last summer. As the story goes, the idea caught on and former player and now director of basketball ops Kevin Smith worked with the biology department to order the spider from a breeder. I think the idea’s brilliant and fully endorse putting an identical, empty cage under the visiting bench during games. But alas, Tarrant doesn’t make road trips, yet. Maybe that’s why the team’s so bad away from home?

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About - Alan Kelly is a 2010 and 2013 graduate of George Mason University and a former member of the Patriot Platoon. He had the memorable experience of being in the middle of the college decision process as George Mason's Final Four run unfolded. He currently resides in Northern Virginia.

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