The Richmond Spiders have undoubtedly been struggling as of late, losing 4 of their last 6 and starting conference play with a 2-3 record. Though they had a chance to pull out the rivalry win over VCU last weekend, they ultimately fell short in overtime. Many Spider fans fault clumsiness on the team’s part as the reason they were unable to beat the Rams. Late in the game, Richmond had 6 players on the court when play started, resulting in a technical foul that would lead to a made free throw by Melvin Johnson. Many will say that if that doesn’t happen, Richmond wins the game. Sure, you could look at it that way, but why don’t we look at another factor that led to a Spider loss: free throw shooting.
The Spiders shot 16-26 (61.5%) from the charity stripe in their overtime loss to the Rams last Saturday. You want to say that one clumsy play cost the Spiders the game? How about the 10 missed free throws that they left out on the floor. Not to mention they went just 1-5 in the overtime session; were the Spiders able to knock down the free ones, they would’ve had a much better chance of getting the home win.
Free throw shooting has been a problem throughout the season for Richmond. According to Kenpom, the Spiders rank 310th in the nation in free throw shooting percentage at 64.4%. They’re dead last in the Atlantic 10 at 65.0% during conference play. If you look at Richmond’s other two losses, you’ll see that free throw shooting has been an issue. The Spiders were just 10-18 (55.6%) in a loss to Rhode Island and 9-14 (64.3%) in a loss to St. Joseph’s. I’m not saying that improved free throw shooting would definitely have won Richmond these three games, but if a few more free ones go down, the Spiders sure have a better chance at walking away with wins rather than losses.
Some of Richmond’s worst performances from the charity stripe have come during losses this year. The Spiders were a mere 7-20 (35.0%) from the line in a loss to Florida earlier this season. They went just 10-21 (47.6%) against Texas Tech at the end of the non-conference slate of their schedule. They were just 21-35 (60.0%) against West Virginia earlier in the year. Anytime you don’t manage to shoot better than 60% from the free throw line, there’s a good chance you’re walking away with a loss. Free throw shooting has been a problem for the Spiders all season, and as of right now, there hasn’t been much of an improvement in conference play.
Luckily for the Spiders, they’ve been able to pick up the slack due to very good field goal shooting. They’re 9th in the nation in effective field goal percentage at 57.0% and 8th in the nation at 2 point field goal percentage at 56.9%. Richmond also leads the Atlantic 10 in both categories. The fact that the Spiders have been so good from the floor but so bad from the charity stripe baffles me. Sure, they know how to knock down shots, but when they’re given opportunities to capitalize from the line, they fall flat. The bottom line is that Richmond needs to work on its free throw shooting if it wants to win close games in the Atlantic 10. While good field goal shooting has kept the Spiders in a lot of contests, a few more made free throws can help them pull out the victories in tight games.