Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Richmond hosts No. 7 Xavier

Huge opportunity for Richmond against a legitimate national powerhouse. Xavier has won 23 straight games against Atlantic 10 foes and 7 straight over Richmond. Of course, those streaks have to end sometime. Will tonight be the night?

No. 7 Xavier (19-2, 8-0 Atlantic 10) at Richmond (15-8, 6-3 Atlantic 10)
Can the Spiders pull this off? Well, sure, they can. A year ago against an equally potent Musketeers team that came within a missed layup of reaching the Final Four, the Spiders were tied with Xavier with less than four minutes remaining before falling in Cincinnati. They later hung with the Musketeers again on a neutral court in the A-10 tournament quarterfinals before losing by 9. So were confident that, at home, the Spiders will at least be competitive. Closing the Musketeers out will be where it gets tricky. In Amber Harris, Xavier has not only one of the 5 to 10 best players in the country, but a go-to senior who wants the ball at crunch time. In late-game situations the Spiders must make someone besides Harris beat them - admittedly, that's easier said than done. Strangely, Richmond has rarely played close games this season, as all but one of their contests have decided by 10 points or more. The loss nail-biter was the 65-64 loss to then-No. 12 Georgetown. Richmond shot the ball ridiculously well in that game and they would benefit greatly something approaching that tonight, particularly from 3-point range. The Spiders took 46 3-point shots in the two games against Xavier a year ago but made just 11. Assuming those same looks are available to the Spiders again, they'll  need to knock more of them down. Finally, Richmond will need 'A' level performances from Abby Oliver, Crystal Goring and especially Brittani Shells. It's not all on these guys; every Spider will have to do her part. But in the biggest games, your stars need to play like stars. Shells is one of the best players in the country, and Oliver and Goring are two of the best in the conference. They'll each need to look the part tonight - and we believe they will. Richmond 67, Xavier 65 (OT).

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