RICHMOND, Va. (AP) Richmond’s city rivalry with VCU has taken on new meaning in the past two seasons with both team now competing in the Atlantic 10 Conference, and Saturday’s first of two meetings comes at a good time for the Spiders.
Richmond is coming off a 20-point loss at No. 19 Saint Louis in a game that it trailed by 24 points before halftime. Coach Chris Mooney hopes having the Rams up next will help his team refocus.
”I think it takes your mind off the previous game because you can’t afford to let it linger,” Mooney said before practice Friday, ”and this next game is one that we circle from the day we get the schedule, so in a way, I do think it kind of mentally moves you past the previous game pretty quickly.”
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The Spiders had won four straight before heading west, including a home victory against then-No. 12 Massachusetts. Senior guard and scoring leader Cedrick Lindsay said he hoped they learned a lesson.
”I think we got a little lax (because) we had four good wins back to back to back, so I think it was a wakeup call for us,” said Lindsay, who averages 18.2 points. ”I think we went in there a little lax and kind of on a high horse and Saint Louis knocked us off. We’ve got to get back to how we were.”
How they are, at their best, contrasts drastically with what VCU looks to do. The Rams play intense, 94-foot pressing defense that tries to produce chaos for the opponent, and Richmond is usually methodical on offense with five guys that can handle the ball, poise and the patience to work for a good shot.
It’s a method that has helped the Spiders split the last four meetings.
”We’re a very calm team so I think it works to our advantage sometimes,” guard Kendall Anthony said of the contrast. ”Their hype and their effort on defense helps us on offense knowing that we’re very patient and we wait on a good shot.”
Perhaps more than in the past, VCU has adjusted well when the pace slows down this season. The Rams lead the nation in turnover margin at plus 7.4, but have made adjustments to have success without forcing so many, too.
”I think their half-court defense is better this year,” Mooney said. ”I think when they have been in games where it hasn’t been a turnover fest, they’ve continued to score, they’ve continued to defend, so it’s not like if they cause turnovers they win, and if they don’t, they lose.”
That poise of his team, though, will be even more critical at the Siegel Center, a raucous arena where VCU has won its last 15 games and expects its 46th consecutive sellout, the fifth-longest such streak in the country.
”It’s definitely a different kind of environment. I don’t think I’ve been in too many gyms like it,” Lindsay said, listing Kansas and Florida as the only places he’s played that compare. ”The crowd is great, every seat is filled, the whole student section is always there. It’s a great environment to play in.”
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