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With five starters in double figures, Spiders shoot to prolong rare balancing act

With five starters in double figures, Spiders shoot to prolong rare balancing act

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The University of Richmond has played basketball since 1913, and the current team is on track to do something only five of its predecessors did: finish the season with five starters averaging in double figures.

About halfway through the season, scoring for the Spiders (9-3, 3-1 A-10) is led by senior guard Blake Francis (16.1 ppg) and followed by senior forward Grant Golden (14.8 ppg), senior guard Jacob Gilyard (12.8), sophomore forward Tyler Burton (12.6) and senior forward Nathan Cayo (11.6).

“It’s huge for us in a lot of different ways,” Golden said. “We’re a really good offensive team, and to be that offensive team that we know we can be, we need scoring from all levels. We need guys scoring inside. We need guys slashing. And we need our shooters knocking down shots.”

Chris Mooney, in his 16th season as UR coach, has consistently promoted the balanced-scoring plan. Some years, it’s a more realistic goal than others. A share-the-shots approach may not be applicable in years with an elite scorer, or a very good one supported by inexperienced players, noted Mooney.

“I would prefer to have balanced scoring, just more because I think it’s a better strategy,” he said.

A balanced team puts more pressure on defenses throughout a season. Good offensive teams elevate to great ones when the ability exists to score in transition, score in games played at a methodical pace, score inside, score outside, and score in the midrange.

“The more versatile you are, the more difficult it is for a team to defend you,” said Mooney, whose team averages 76 points.

Richmond targets prospects who are capable of meshing as point producers, Mooney said, but that’s often difficult to project.

“Naturally, you’re always going to have some guys who are a little more built to score,” he said.

The Spiders, who face VCU (9-3, 2-1 A-10) on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Robins Center (televised by CBS Sports Network), so far have played their offensive roles well in a system that emphasizes all players touching the ball each possession. Golden and Cayo score inside. Burton scores from all spots and, occasionally, after offensive rebounds. Gilyard and Francis score primarily in transition and from the perimeter.

Each starter has hit at least one 3-pointer. Each gets to the free throw line on a regular basis.

Richmond has the reputation of a potent 3-point-shooting team, but “we’re going to have days when guys aren’t going to make shots, and we’re going to have to find other ways to score,” Golden said.

Mooney’s 2017-18 team featured five double-figure scorers: Golden (15.6 ppg), guard Nick Sherod (14.3), guard De’Monte Buckingham (12.2), Gilyard (11.4) and guard Khwan Fore (11).

That was the only one of Mooney’s first 15 teams that placed five players in double figures. He had four double scorers five times, three double-figure scorers five times, two double-figure scorers three times, and one year with just one double-figure scorer.

Before the 2017-18 team, Richmond last finished with all starters averaging 10 or more points in 1968-69. Other seasons in which Spiders teams completed a season with five starters as double-figure scorers: 1958-59, 1954-55, 1953-54.

The last Spider to average 20 or more points is now in the NBA. Official Curtis Blair, a Richmond-area resident, averaged 20.3 points as a senior during the 1991-92 season.

joconnor@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6233

@RTDjohnoconnor

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