George Washington-Richmond Preview
Richmond enjoyed the outcome of its first game as a ranked team in 24 years, but knows games will only get tougher as it tries to protect its lead atop the Atlantic 10.
With a showdown against another conference champion contender looming, the No. 25 Spiders try to avoid a fourth consecutive home loss to George Washington on Saturday.
After moving into the AP poll for the first time since January 1986, Richmond (21-6, 10-2) had no problem avoiding a letdown with an 84-56 win over Fordham on Wednesday. Facing a team that is winless in Atlantic 10 play, the Spiders shot 52.6 percent and forced 19 turnovers.
With a seven-game winning streak, which includes three home victories by a combined 71 points, Richmond is a half-game ahead of No. 21 Temple and Xavier for the conference lead. Both of those teams are playing on the road Saturday, and the Spiders will visit Xavier in their next game Feb. 28.
"With each game that we play as we're in first place ... we become the team with the target on its back," coach Chris Mooney said. "We're embracing first place and the ranking. We just want to make sure we play as well as we can."
Mooney's team played very well in its first game back in the rankings Wednesday. The Spiders took a 22-point lead into halftime and were able to use every player on their bench. No one was on the court for more than 24 minutes.
"It felt really good for me," leading scorer Kevin Anderson, who finished with 19 points, said of the extended rest. "My knee's been bothering me a little bit - just wear and tear of the season."
Richmond began its winning streak with a 62-57 come-from-behind victory at George Washington on Jan. 23. Mooney would certainly like a much better offensive game from his team in the rematch, considering the Spiders shot 38.3 percent in the victory. Anderson led all scorers with 21 points, hitting two critical free throws in the final seconds.
"It was a really tough and hard fought game against GW the first time and I expect the same thing on Saturday," Mooney said.
The Spiders have lost three straight home games against George Washington (14-10, 4-7), failing to reach 60 points in any of them.
The Colonials have struggled in conference play but have won their last two games.
Following a 78-53 victory at Fordham last Saturday, George Washington defeated Massachusetts 66-60 on Wednesday. Lasan Kromah scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half and the Colonials overcame shooting a season-low 33.9 percent.
"Both teams knew we were in a desperate situation," forward Damian Hollis said. "We both came out aggressive."
Hollis was held to nine points in the win, but he leads George Washington with 14.1 per game. He's failed to score in double figures in six of his last eight games, including nine points last month at Richmond as he went 1 of 7 from the floor and was limited to 17 minutes because of a bruised rib.
The Colonials haven't faced a ranked team this season. They've lost seven straight against Top 25 foes since a 78-70 win over Maryland in 2005.