Already having been blown out at home by Xavier (85-62 on January 29th), Richmond fell at Temple 73-53 to drop into fourth place in the conference, and further investigation of their profile makes it difficult to make a convincing case for Chris Mooney's team despite their win over Purdue early in the season.
Before last night's game the Spiders boasted an RPI of 70 and an SOS of 153, and when you have a record of 14-1 against teams with an RPI of 151 or worse it's tough to sell an overall record of 20-7 (9-3 Atlantic 10). And what hurts them even more is that they'll have two more games against teams with poor computer numbers before the regular season ends with trips to Charlotte and Saint Joseph's.
While Xavier was able to bounce back from their loss at Charlotte to assume control of the Atlantic 10 race a loss to the erratic 49ers could be the final nail in the coffin for Richmond. Despite the talent of point guard Kevin Anderson and forward Justin Harper the Spiders are likely in a situation where they need a deep run in the Atlantic 10 Tournament in order to provide a convincing case that they should dance.
As for last night, the Owls took control of the game early, going on an 11-2 run halfway through the first half to push their lead up to 12 points and leading by nine at the half. Ramone Moore led the way with 24 points and Temple led by as many as 25 points in the second half, but the most important development for Fran Dunphy's team had to have been the play of Juan Fernandez. Fernandez made nine of ten from the field and scored 20 points, and given the fact that he's struggled for much of conference play from the field it's an encouraging sign as they enter the stretch run.
Temple also suffered a key loss with Micheal Eric now done for the season due to a broken patella. Eric averaged 7.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, a total second to Lavoy Allen's 7.0 rebounds per game. Eric's injury means that Rahlir Jefferson moves into the starting lineup and he grabbed seven rebounds in 39 minutes of action. But Temple's now down to about a seven-man rotation and the seventh guy last night, T.J. DiLeo, played 10 minutes.
Three of their last five are on the road, including a game at Duke on Wednesday, but it's by no means unreasonable to predict a 4-1 mark to end the regular season for them. They should be OK without Eric, but Jefferson and others will need to continue to rebound to make up for the big man's absence. As for Richmond, that season finale against Duquesne looms large with neither having major resume-building opportunities left on the schedule. That could be a showdown for bid number three, and unfortunately for the A-10 that may be a best-case scenario.
Other Notable Happenings
1. Arizona had quite the day at the office, and they remain atop the Pac-10 standings.
To say Thursday was a good day to be an Arizona Wildcat would be an understatement, with the commitment of forward Angelo Chol (San Diego) making four highly-touted recruits in the Class of 2011 for Sean Miller and his staff. Chol joins guards Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner and forward Sidiki Johnson, and given what Arizona's slated to have back on campus (even if Derrick Williams were to go pro) look for them to be a preseason Top 10 team. But the more important matter was their 79-70 win over Washington State, moving the Wildcats to 11-2 in league play and keeping them a game ahead of UCLA atop the Pac-10.
Williams, who should be a consensus All-American come season's end, finished with 28 points and eight rebounds and defensively the Wildcats survived 30 from Klay Thompson by limiting the other Cougars to 15-for-36 from the field. 6th man Faisal Aden managed just two points on the night, and when that happens Ken Bone's team gets into trouble. Next up for Arizona is Washington at home, where a measure of revenge (Washington won the first meeting by 17) likely eliminates the Huskies from the title race. Tough to peg just where Arizona ends up come Selection Sunday (4 or 5 seed seems likely right now) but that's a team no one will look forward to playing.
2. Coastal Carolina may be in serious trouble despite their gaudy record.
Cliff Ellis' team has navigated a player dismissal and a key injury to win 22 straight games before falling to Gardner Webb on Tuesday night. But the loss of leading scorer and rebounder Desmond Holloway (18.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg) could be the straw that broke the camel's back for the Chanticleers. They didn't need him last night as all five scorers reached double figures in a 94-59 win over North Carolina Central in a non-conference tilt, but winning the Big South Tournament became even tougher for a team that dropped last year's final at home to Radford.
Chad Gray and Albany transfer Anthony Raffa will be the guys most likely to pick up the slack offensively, and the best sign from last night's win may have been the 22 points scored by Dexter Moore, who averages only 10.8 minutes per game. Not points, minutes. Obviously the opportunity is there for more minutes and shots, and Coastal needs the junior from Bluefield, West Virginia to be up to the task if they're to grab that automatic bid.
3. Belmont and Oakland now have postseason berths as a result of last night's games.
Two more teams clinched their respective conference's regular season titles on Thursday night. Belmont clinched the Atlantic Sun with a 68-58 win over East Tennessee State, moving to 16-1 in league play and 24-4 overall. Belmont's won six straight games since their lone conference loss at rival Lipscomb, and Ian Clark led the way with 18 points and six rebounds. Rick Byrd's squad plays with impressive balance as six players average at least seven points and eleven play at least 10 minutes per game.
Oakland wrapped up the Summit League with their 71-69 win over North Dakota State as Keith Benson scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds. The Golden Grizzlies, who have now won two straight league titles, have been just as good within the league as Belmont and it's been more than just Benson getting the job done. Will Hudson went for 15 points and 12 rebounds and Reggie Hamilton scored 19 while dishing out five assists. Add in Larry Wright off the bench and this is a team that's also been tested in the non-conference portion of their schedule, meaning that they won't be scared should they earn an automatic bid.
Top Three Games
1. Long Island 83, Wagner 79 (OT) Kyle Johnson scored six points in the extra sessions as the Blackbirds maintained their two-game lead in the NEC. David Hicks led LIU with 21 points and Latif Rivers led Wagner with 18 points. Chris Martin's three with four seconds remaining to force overtime for the Seahawks.
2. DePaul 79, Providence 76 DePaul found a way to end both their 25-game Big East and 29-game road losing streaks at the same time. Jeremiah Kelly scored a career-high 23 points and freshmen Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young added a combined 37 in the Blue Demons' victory. Marshon Brooks led all scorers with 28.
3. Penn State 66, Minnesota 63 Talor Battle scored 28 points as the Nittany Lions dealt Minnesota a serious blow with regards to their NCAA Tournament hopes. Blake Hoffarber led the Golden Gophers with 18 points and Trevor Mbakwe added 16.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Nate Wolters (South Dakota State) 30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in the Jackrabbits' 80-64 win over IPFW.
2. F Derrick Williams (Arizona) 28 points (12-12 FT) and eight rebounds in the Wildcats' 79-70 win over Washington State.
3. G Chris Flores (NJIT) 28 points and eight rebounds in the Highlanders' 72-66 win at Houston Baptist.