UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Chris Mooney still has that feeling – call it an incomplete feeling. The Richmond head coach was happy his team responded well on short notice, and can see his team’s potential, but there’s still a hard feeling. They had a chance. And they came up short.
“I do still have that feeling that I wish we had done a little bit better against North Carolina,” said Mooney after his team responded with a blowout of Fairfield that was never a ballgame.
And while he’s focusing on the positives, the close call against North Carolina, the one where his star player scored 29 points, was still tough to take. He knew it presented an added challenge to his team a day later.
“I think we felt like we were very close in the game yesterday, and it’s natural to feel disappointment,” said Mooney. “You know you’d rather be playing against Louisville, and then we come in and the arena empties out. We started emphasizing last night at dinner to make sure we came out with the proper energy and focus and approach to the game, and I give credit to our upperclassmen and our whole team, because I thought we handled that well.”
The Spiders certainly have the potential to bounce back not only from Saturday, but from a tough season a year ago. While they are still a relatively young team with just two seniors and two juniors in the rotation, some of last year’s difficulty meant younger players getting more minutes, and it may really pay off now with more experience gained. In addition, the two seniors are playing like leaders and helping the younger players develop more. In fact, Sunday’s game was a developmental game of sorts.
Cedric Lindsay led the way on Sunday. He didn’t do it the way he did a day earlier, when he scored 29 against the Tar Heels (“Not many guys are able to put 29 on Carolina,” Mooney noted), but he led nonetheless. The senior facilitated for the likes of Terry Allen (16 points on 6-9 shooting), Derrick Williams (11 points) and freshman ShawnDre’ Jones (11 points). Only Kendall Anthony played double-digit minutes but didn’t score on the afternoon.
“(Lindsay) has a great understanding not only of the game, but how we’re playing and what needs to be done next,” said Mooney.
Having Williams back after he missed nine key games last season is a nice boost for this team, and it gives the Spiders a very good frontcourt. Allen and Alonzo Nelson-Ododa both played a lot of minutes as freshmen last season, especially when Williams was out, so that helped them from an experience standpoint. Now they gain from having him back as a senior and one who knows how to play, and it shows as both have had big leaps in their scoring and rebounding thus far.
“He just talks to us all the time, in practice, and especially during the basketball game, he talks a lot,” said Allen.
Richmond’s defense has carried them thus far, as they’re shooting a little over 41 percent from the field on the season. They held Fairfield to 33.3 percent from the field, which ties a season low for the Stags, and are now holding opponents below 40 percent on the season. That kind of defense will go a long way, especially as the big men keep developing and complementary guards like Anthony and Wayne Sparrow develop alongside Lindsay.
Mooney said he thinks the team has run good offense and taken good shots, something they preach in the program. If they see a few shots go, the confidence could get a big boost, and that may send the offense in another direction.
“I think we’re going to be a really good and well-rounded team,” said Mooney. “We haven’t shot the ball well yet, I think we will. We just need to make sure we keep practicing, keep approaching it and making sure we get better.”
Richmond has some challenges the rest of the way before Atlantic 10 play, with the road games being tough ones. They travel to play at Air Force, a William & Mary team that could be a sleeper in the CAA, Wake Forest, Northeastern and Florida. Northeastern impressed in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off by knocking off Georgetown and giving eventual champion Charlotte and Florida State all they could handle. The Spiders also have home dates with James Madison, Coppin State, Ohio and Old Dominion.
Richmond leaves Connecticut with a 3-3 mark but feeling like they have a lot of potential. They also feel like they’re close to seeing the hard work pay off. They know that means working that much harder to finish the job, because they don’t want to have that same incomplete feeling they had after Saturday.