The University of Richmond men’s basketball team ended last season with a number of accolades it hadn’t seen in a long time, if ever.
The Spiders ended last season on a record-breaking streak, finishing with a school record-tying 26 wins and ranked 24th in the Associated Press Top-25 poll.
The team also set school records for blocks and steals in a single season with 158 and 289 respectively.
The Spiders face The Citadel for their home opener in the Robins Center at 7 p.m. tomorrow, Nov. 12.
“We’re expecting them to come in and play hard trying to get a good road win against us,” said junior forward/center Darrius Garrett. Garrett scored in double figures during eight of the last ten games of last season.
The Citadel finished last year with an overall record of 16-16 compared to the Spiders season record of 26-9.
Head coach Chris Mooney said the team was feeling confident about the game after a strong season last year and retaining many veteran players.
“We’ve gotten that taste of success and I don’t think we’ve been spoiled by it,” he said. “I think it’s kind of motivated us.”
The team received votes in both the ESPN/USA Today and Associated Press Top-25 preseason polls for the first time in school history. It has been picked to finish third in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll.
Senior Kevin Anderson became the first Spider to earn the A-10 Player of the Year award, last year scoring ten points or more during 32 of Richmond’s 35 games. Anderson’s 622 cumulative points were seventh most by a Spider in a single season.
Mooney said the team was hoping to bring together the veteran and newer players against The Citadel.
The Citadel has standout players in senior guard Cameron Wells, who enters his senior year third on the team’s all-time scoring list with 1,497. Senior guard Zach Urbanus is The Citadel’s all-time career three-point leader with 231.
“It’ll be important for us to get control of the game, to play it how we want it to be played,” Mooney said. “For us, that means sharing the ball, making sure there’s a lot of ball movement, being as solid defensively as possible.”
The Spiders bring in only three freshmen this year: Cedrick Lindsay, Wayne Sparrow and Derrick Williams.
“I’m just really excited how quickly they’ve learned things, how hard they’re working, how much they’ve just embraced being a part of the team,” Mooney said.
Missing from the roster are graduated players David Gonzalvez and Ryan Butler. Mooney said though those two players would be difficult to replace, the team was adjusting to the differences.
Garrett said, “after losing two great senior leaders such as Dave and Ryan we are just focused on replacing their leadership and the energy they brought to the team.”
Mooney said though the team was stronger defensively last year, it was working hard to build the defense to match the strong offense established by this year’s roster.
“Last year, we were really able to have a great season,” he said. “This year might go a little bit differently. It could still be great, or better, or it might go a little bit differently and be worse.”
Senior forward Justin Harper said that filling the vocal, defensive leader roles of Butler and Gonzalvez would be tough, but the team would rise to the challenge.
“We have been talking more on the court and getting the freshmen involved to show them what Richmond defense is all about,” Harper said.
Mooney said he was excited about the Spiders’ schedule this season.
“I think when we scheduled the season, we wanted to give ourselves the chance to play against some of the very best teams in the country to see how we do,” Mooney said. “So when those opportunities arise, you know, last year we were really successful, and hopefully we can do more of the same this year.”
Harper said that playing a lot of out-of-conference games early in the season would only help the team.
“It gives us a good test to see where we are and where we can go,” he said. “It helps give our team an identity.”
The opening game will feature a variety of ticket promotions including Spider Silly Bands for the first 2,000 youngsters (12 and under) as well as dollar night for hot dogs and small sodas, and a Martin’s 2-for-1 ticket special.
Halftime events will include a performance by the New Guard America Drill Team as well as the Richmond SpinnURs.
Garrett and Harper both said they were most excited to start the season since they have been preparing since the summer.
Harper said: “It is my senior season and I am ready to succeed. I’m excited for the opportunity to become a better player and help the team do great things this season.”