#JumpBall: Ringing in Conference Play

#1 Without Wood and Golden,  Spiders upset Davidson

Two weeks ago on paper, the Richmond Spiders would have been shut out on the road against Davidson. On Sunday, without Marshall Wood and Grant Golden, the Spiders kicked-off their Atlantic 10 season with an 82-80 upset victory.

Behind T.J. Cline’s third straight double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds); Richmond (7-6, 1-0) built a 17-point lead that would prove to be big enough to hold the Wildcats at bay. ShawnDre’ Jones would add 21 points with a 9-13 day shooting.

On the night, the Spiders shot an astounding 53 percent from the floor and led to them dominating the early moments of the second half.

A ferocious 15-2 comeback led by Peyton Aldridge and Jack Gibbs, who both tallied 21 points each in the contest, was too late for Davidson (7-5, 0-1) on their home floor.

The victory came for the Spiders after a two week stretch where the team lost Golden and Wood.

Golden who collapsed in the team’s Dec. 17 matchup against Texas Tech, suffered an accelerated heart rate. After undergoing a cardiac procedure to alleviate the problem on Dec. 22, it is still uncertain when the promising freshman will be able to return to basketball activities.

The 6’9” forward averaged eight minutes and 2.0 points a contest off of the bench. Before his absence, he had played in all but one game for the Spiders.

In the week leading up to the matchup against the Wildcats, the team found out they would be without Wood as well. The senior is currently out two-three weeks with mononucleosis, according to A10 Talk. Each night the Virginia Tech transfer would bring in six points and three rebounds.

There has always been an uncertainty with Richmond over the past handful of seasons, having talent but not performing to their expectations. With a mixed 6-6 non-conference performance it was chalked up to be more of the same for the Spiders.

The shocking victory over Davidson may be the kick the team needed to pull it all together.

#2 Experienced Bonnies hold off young Minutemen

A combined 53 points scored by St. Bonaventure’s starting backcourt, led the way for the Bonnies in an 89-77 win at Massachusetts.

Juniors, Jaylen Adams (29 points) and Matt Mobley (23 points) were too much for the young Minutemen to handle. Together they shot 15-28, while the rest of the team was 10-30. Behind the arc they hit all six threes that the Bonnies scored in the contest.

At the end of the first half, Mobley took charge to give St. Bonaventure (9-4, 1-0) an eight point advantage at the break. Up until that point, the game had been relatively back-and-forth.

On the other side of the court, the two freshmen were held to quiet nights on the floor from UMass (10-4, 0-1). Dejon Jarreau did not hit his scoring form until late in the contest and finished with 13 points. His counterpart, Luwane Pipkins was held scoreless, 0-7, but did manage to pull out five assists.

The highlight of the game though was the mid-game scuffle between two freshmen Josh Ayeni (St. Bonaventure) and Brison Gresham (UMass).

While both played a role in instigating the situation, Ayeni (eight points in seven minutes) took a swing at Gresham before teammates pulled each other away. Gresham also would take a swing, to no avail, with Ayeni being nearly eight feet away.

Both were ejected from the game and the conference has announced no further action against the two players.

Following the ejection, St. Bonaventure went on a run to give the Bonnies a 19-point lead that they would use to cruise for the remainder of the match.

#3 Shavar Newkirk to miss remainder of season

Saint Joseph’s started their Atlantic 10 season with a win, but lost their leading scorer in the process.

Early in the second half, Shavar Newkirk went down with a non-contact injury to his left knee. After celebrating a thrilling win over George Washington, with back-to-back three pointers to propel the Hawks over the Colonials 68-63, the Hawks went back into the locker room to learn of the devastating news.

Newkirk tore the ACL in his left knee. The injury requires surgery and the typical recovery will require him to miss the rest of the season.

For Saint Joseph’s (7-5, 1-0), the 6’1” junior was averaging 20.3 points per game, replacing much of the slack that the team was missing after DeAndre Bembry left for the NBA Draft. With a 39 percent three point percentage, he was second on the Hawks behind Charlie Brown (41 percent).

Newkirk was putting up numbers that would put him in consideration to receive all-conference honors at the end of the season.

Fortunately for the Hawks, James Demery returned to the lineup after missing extended time due to a stress fracture. In the forward’s return against George Washington (8-6, 0-1), Demery scored nine points, four rebounds, and four assists.

There are three other players, including Demery, that are above double figures in scoring. Lamarr Kimble and Charlie Brown will need more of their late-game three point heroics to keep Saint Joseph’s in contention.

#4 In a loss to VCU, George Mason proves worth

George Mason got their first big test of the season when the VCU Rams came to Fairfax to open up Atlantic 10 play.

Although it was in a losing effort 73-64, the Patriots (10-4, 0-1) showed to their rivals and the rest of the conference that their non-conference slate was no fluke. Coming into the contest the team was on a nine game winning streak.

VCU (11-4, 1-0) looked to take command early with their havoc style of defense. Early Mason looked like they would falter, but quickly climbed back into the game.

However it became evident of what the team will look like next season, when this graduating class moves on. Jalen Jenkins (12 points) got into early foul trouble and allowed the Rams to pound the paint consistently and Marquise Moore (10 points) tweaked a groin injury in the second half.

FULL GAME RECAP: VCU vs. George Mason rivalry is back

A shame for Mason because both were two of the most productive players on the court based on their minutes.

Even without the two seniors, Mason kept up the intensity and forced 21 turnovers from the Rams. Young players, including four freshmen, got quality playing time that can only bode well for the team going forward.

It was a loss, but a loss to one of the top three teams in the conference. If George Mason can play the rest of the season like they did against VCU, they will be right in contention to break into the top half of the conference.

#5 Key battles in opening weekend

Early in conference play it is easy to overlook games that will shape the Atlantic 10’s final standings. While one game specifically will not change how a team will finish, this past weekend may have given some teams a slight advantage.

Already mentioned, Richmond beating Davidson was huge for both squads. With the potential to play to their abilities in conference play, the Spiders may jump up to compete with Davidson for one of the final double-bye (No 4 seed) in the conference tournament.

With St. Bonaventure holding off Massachusetts, it kept the Minutemen from getting a key win early in the year. Massachusetts is a young team that will only get better as the season goes on. With a late season run, the Bonnies will be thankful that they have this early season victory.

Finally with Saint Joseph’s (7-5, 1-0) knocking off George Washington (8-6, 0-1), it gave the Hawks an edge in what will be a battle for the middle seeds in the conference. Unlike the other two contests, this is they only matchup between the Hawks and Colonials on the season. Essentially the 2016 conference champion holds a game and a half lead over George Washington.

Upcoming this week, more major standings battles will include:

1/4 Massachusetts at George Mason               7:00     A10 Network

1/6 Rhode Island at Dayton                          7:00     ESPN2

1/7 Duquesne at La Salle                                8:00     A10 Network

1/8 Richmond at George Washington            12:00   NBCSN

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