By Dan Gardella
Brooklyn – While scoring helps make other parts of a team’s game flow better, it’s not always a given a team’s offense will be consistent.
Such was the case for Richmond, who shot 32% for the game, but used a last-second basket to help them escape Brooklyn with a 52-50 first round win over Fordham and advance in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
Richmond would get things started on the scoreboard with a basket by Nathan Cayo more than a minute into the contest. From there, offense would become a rarity that the 4,278 fans in attendance would get to enjoy minimally.
The score would stand at 2-0 for almost three minutes until Jake Wojcik would knock down a jumper to give the Spiders a 4-0 lead. Richmond would score the first five points of the game before Fordham finally found the scoreboard at the 15:17 minute mark when Jalen Cobb connected on a jump shot.
Wojcik would respond with a three to continue his strong start. After Fordham’s Nick Honor would hit a three himself, Wojcik would knock down another long range jumper, giving him 8 of the team’s first 11 points.
The offense would continue to remain slow, with the exception of Wojcik, who would score nine points to lead all first half scorers. Fordham would get the lead to as little as two for Richmond, but could never take the lead.
But that would quickly change with a fresh half.
To start the second half, Fordham would score the first six points, four coming from Honor to give the Rams the lead back just two minutes into the new half. Scoring would pick up as the lead would change hands six times within the first four minutes of the half.
The lead would not get bigger than four points for the Spiders, who remained in control. That is, until Antwon Portley came alive. With 10:45 to play and the Rams trailing by 8, Portley would knock down two three-pointers in the midst of an 8-0 run for Fordham that would help them re-take the lead.
Matt Grace would be left wide open from the top of the key to sink a three and snap a scoreless streak ranging more than three minutes to give the Spiders a 39-38 lead with 7:29 to play. The jumper would begin a 7-0 run to give the Spiders some breathing room with 5:25 to play.
The lead would rise as much as six with 3:16 to play as it appeared that Richmond was beginning to pull away. But behind Portley and Honor, Fordham would find themselves at the free throw line with a chance to tie in the form of freshman Jalen Cobb.
After making the first and missing the second free throw, Fordham was forced to foul in order to extend the game. Grant Golden would be the one fouled and going to the line with a chance to make it a three-point game as time was winding down.
He would only make the first free throw, opening the door for Fordham.
On the ensuing possession, Portley would get fouled and head to the free throw line, looking to tie the game.
He would do just that, tying the game at 50.
Without any timeouts, Jacob Gilyard would drive down the court and shovel a pass down low to Nathan Cayo, who would put it in with 0.2 seconds left, which ultimately would stand as the difference in the game.
“The ball was in Gilly’s (Jacob Gilyard) hands,” said Cayo. “He beat everyone down the court. He usually gets that pass down low to me near the basket. I was trying to shoot it as quickly as possible.
After a final attempt by the Rams fell short, Richmond, who breathes a sigh of relief moves on to face St. Louis in the second round.
Fordham was led by Portley, who scored a game-high 17 points in the loss. A loss like this is all but too familiar to the Rams.
“Our team’s effort was really good,” said Fordham head coach Jeff Neubauer. “This one is going to hurt. Really proud of our group. We had a chance.”
The Spiders were led by Cayo, who scored 15 points along with grabbing 7 rebounds. The Spider’s top two scorers in Gilyard and Golden combined for only 13 points. For Golden however, he impacted the game with 11 rebounds and 7 assists in the win.
For Richmond, the turnaround is quick, but not as quick as other teams as they have a little over a day to prepare for St. Louis.
“We are in the late game tomorrow. We’re pleased with that,” said Richmond head coach. “We’ll meet about three times over the course of the day.”
PHOTO: Nathan Cayo/gorichmond.com