Thursday, February 23, 2012

Richmond stifles Duquesne; clinches 4th seed in A-10

Richmond 59, Duquesne 45: First, a quick word about Spiders star Abby Oliver. Before the season began, it wasn't clear how Oliver, the team's only senior but hardly your classic, rah-rah personality, would fare in the road of leader. It's clear now. It figured that the talented, ultra-competitive Oliver would put together an All-Atlantic 10-caliber campaign individually. But she's also been the catalyst for a 22-6 season that has exceeded all expectations. There's enough credit for Richmond's success to go around to all of the Spiders (yeah, and to you coaches, too). But in a lot of ways, Richmond's season is a testament to what can happen when the best player is willing to step out of her comfort zone and embrace all the responsibilities of being a leader.

Now, back to the game. Richmond's victory, coupled with losses by St. Joseph's and Charlotte, allowed the Spiders (22-6, 9-4) to clinch the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. With one game remaining in the regular season, Richmond will finish no worse than 9-5 in the league race. Of the teams trailing the Spiders, only St. Joe's can finish with the same record. Richmond owns the tiebreaker over St Joe's because of its 78-59 victory over the Hawks on Feb. 4 in the teams' lone meeting.

On Wednesday, Richmond clamped down on a Duquesne offense that came in ranked second in the Atlantic 10 at 68.9 points per game, then finished off the Dukes' possessions by controlling the defensive boards. Richmond won the rebounding battle 40-27 and surrendered only 6 offensive rebounds. Then there was Richmond's free throw shooting, which at 18-for-18 was spectacular even by the Spiders' lofty standard. Oliver and Becca Wann (America's best basketball walk-on) each went 6 for 6 while Liz Brown, Rachael Bilney and Kristina King each went 2 for 2 as the Spiders bettered the 16-for-16 effort from the line they produced on Jan. 11 against George Washington. Richmond also went 10 for 10 from the stripe on Dec. 30 at Lehigh. The Spiders began the week ranked third in Division I in free throw shooting at 80.0 percent. Oliver, who leads Division I from the line, is now at 94.1 percent (96 of 102).

Oliver closed out her Robins Center career with a team-high 15 points, Wann had 14 points and 12 rebounds and Rachael Bilney chipped in 13 points for the Spiders (22-6, 9-4 Atlantic 10), Genevieve Okoro came off the bench to haul down 11 rebounds. Alex Gensler led all scorers with 17 points for Duquesne, which lost for the first time in five games.

Atlantic 10 standings
St. Bonaventure         26-2   13-0
Temple                     19-8    12-1
Dayton                     19-6    11-2
Richmond                 22-6     9-4
St. Joseph's              18-9     8-5
Duquesne                 19-9     7-6
Charlotte                  15-11   7-6
LaSalle                     13-15   7-6
George Washington  11-16   4-9
Saint Louis               10-18   4-9
Xavier                       7-19   4-9
UMass                      8-20   3-10
Fordham                  11-17  2-11
Rhode Island            1-27   0-13

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