One down, 17 to go.
A fun opening weekend of A-10 hoops capped itself off with what was certainly the theme of the weekend, as Richmond survived Davidson on the road in a weekend that saw road teams go 5-2.
RICHMOND STUNS DAVIDSON
Richmond reminded A-10 fans just how dangerous they remain despite a disappointing 6-6 non-conference showing that ended with a blowout loss to Oral Roberts. The Spiders scorched the Wildcats with a 60% shooting night that included 12 three-point makes. Spider seniors ShawnDre Jones (21 points on 9-13 shooting) and TJ Cline (21 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists) played like first-teamers but got a combined 28 points from freshman De’Monte Buckingham and Nick Sherod that will need to be a theme of this season in order for UofR to remain at the top of the conference. Davidson’s Peyton Aldridge starred for the Cats (21 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks) and nearly tipped in an intentionally-missed free throw to tie the game but just missed. The Cats had looked vastly improved defensively in the non-conference and will need to get back to that quick as they have a tough road contest against GW on Thursday.
Game ball: TJ Cline – 21 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists
DAYTON PUTS THE CLAMPS ON LA SALLE
Fact: La Salle ranks 43rd nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency according to kenpom.com. The Explorers currently rank 41st nationally in scoring offense despite facing a top-100 defensive strength of schedule. None of that mattered however in Dayton’s shutdown of Dr. John Giannini’s team on Saturday. The Explorers 55 points was a season-low and almost 30 points less than the team’s season average. Dayton gave La Salle absolutely nothing in the paint and with that effort picked up a nice conference-opening win. The Flyers once again look the part of a potential A-10 conference champ but once again will deal with an injury, this time to Charles Cooke who will serve his second injury tour after previously missing one game with a wrist injury. The injury couldn’t come at a worse time as Dayton heads to Olean on Tuesday before ending the week with a home game against Rhode Island. La Salle on the other hand will look to get their offense back on track with home games against SLU and Duquesne.
Game ball: Kendall Pollard – 20 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals,
ST. BONAVENTURE DEFEATS UMASS IN FOUL FEST
Both St. Bonaventure and UMass headed into A-10 play with a bit of promise matched with a little skepticism. The Bonnies had been solid through OOC play but dropped two semi head-scratchers to Little Rock and Canisius while UMass looked much-improved in their 10-3 start, their big win coming against a Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hyde Temple team, but not much outside of that (eight of UMass’ wins were over sub-150 teams). The Bonnies had done much of their OOC damage behind a strong offense, UMass with a lockdown D. Ultimately offense won that battle but thanks largely to a game full of whistles, a total of 58 fouls called on the evening resulting in 33 points from the free throw stripe to for the Bonnies in the win. UMass did themselves no favors with 18 turnovers either, 13 coming from Minutemen starters. Jaylen Adams started A-10 play with a Player of the Year type of performance, dropping 29 on Derek Kellogg’s crew. His partner in crime, Matt Mobley, added 23. The Bonnies get a chance at an early A-10 statement win when they host Dayton on Tuesday. UMass will be forced to bounce back with a tricky game at George Mason.
Game ball: Jaylen Adams – 29 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
VCU OUTLASTS MASON
VCU opened A-10 play with a nice road win, avenging an EagleBank Arena A-10 loss suffered last season in Fairfax to the George Mason Patriots. Nearly 8,000 fans turned out for the event as Dave Paulsen has seemingly resurrected GMU, but a huge group of VCU fans were among them and thanks to a domination of the paint from Mo Alie-Cox and Co., made the trip back to Richmond a happy one this year. Mason had been one of the best rebounding teams in the country heading into Friday’s matchup but were out-rebounded by 11 and gave up 46 points in the paint on a night VCU held the lead from almost start to finish. The young Patriots kept it close all night however, answering VCU’s attempts to put the game out of reach with timely buckets of their own. GMU got a balanced scoring effort but the Rams were able to keep start guard Marquise Moore from going off while getting JeQuan Lewis going on the other end. The VCU senior scored a game-high 26 points in the win but had four turnovers, a theme for the Rams that helped keep the Patriots within striking distance all night. The Rams finished the game by matching a season-worst 21 turnovers and hit just three three-pointers on the evening but managed to pick up a big road win regardless.
Game ball: JeQuan Lewis – 26 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 steals
SAINT JOSEPH’S HOLDS SERVE AGAINST PESKY COLONIALS
No teams in the A-10 lost as much this offseason as Saint Joseph’s and George Washington and the two met in a hard-fought conference opener that ultimately went to the home team. Saint Joseph’s erased a six-point halftime deficit thanks to two big threes late to outlast GW, Freshman Charlie Brown hit the go-ahead three with 2:25 left to play, one of just two field goals that would fall for either team the remainder of the game. Sophomore Lamar Kimble sealed the deal by adding another and extending SJU’s lead to four with just 32 seconds left to play. The Hawks did a great job of limiting GW inside and needed every bit of that interior D against a Colonials squad that hit 12 of their 26 threes in the loss. Transfer Jaren Sina hit five of those threes and led the Colonials with 15 points in the loss.
Game ball: Charlie Brown – 13 points (6-9), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 1 steals
RHODY HAMMERS SLU
It was a no Martin, no problem night for Rhode Island as the Rams hammered Saint Louis on the road without the Rams’ star big man. Rhody simply could not miss on the night, hitting 50% of their threes and 55.6% of their field goals in the win. Five Rams scored in double-digits including a surging Jeff Dowtin, a freshman worth keeping an eye on. Dowtin dropped 12 on the Billikens on a perfect 5-5 shooting. But as good as the Upper Marlboro, MD native was in a supporting role, it was senior Kuran Iverson that set the tone for the team, posting a game-high 19 points to go with a stat sheet stuffing eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Aaron Hines and Elliot Welmer posted a team-high 14 points each for SLU in a game the Billikens appeared to be playing for a high draft pick.
Game ball: Kuran Iverson – 19 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks
DUKES ESCAPE FORDHAM
Duqesne saw their 12-point halftime lead evaporate but managed to do just enough to fend of a late Fordham rally, picking up a key conference road win to start their A-10 season. Fordham used a 23-11 run to gain the lead with under three minutes to play but Mike Lewis hit a big three and converted a steal into two free throws to late to help seal the game for Duquesne. The Dukes destroyed Fordham on the glass, out-rebounding the Rams by an embarrassing 27 boards including a team-high 10 from Kale Abrahamson who finished with the games only double-double, adding 12 points for Rams. Duquesne completely owned the paint in the win, not only monopolizing the glass but also limiting Fordham to 36.7% shooting inside the arc.
Game ball: Mike Lewis – 15 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals