Game #9-236: Air Force Falcons at Richmond SpidersJanuary 2, 2013 7:00 pm
When Chris Mooney came to the University of Richmond in 2005, I wasn't quite sure what to think. Mooney was replacing the ever popular Jerry Wainwright who was highly successful at UNCW; he then took the Spiders to two postseason berths in his three-year tenure. Mooney and Wainwright couldn't be more different on and off the court. Mooney traded in Wainwright's more up-tempo system for the only thing he knew, the slow, methodical Princeton offense.
The reason I wasn't the biggest fan of the Mooney hire was that I didn't know much about the young coach. He played at Princeton, was the head coach at Beaver College, and then climbed from being an assistant to the head coach at Air Force. When he came to Richmond, he was only 33 years old. His first year at Richmond was an odyssey to say the least. Many of Richmond's best players bolted town as Mooney installed his Princeton offense. Mooney had a system but he didn't have the players for it. Surprisingly, despite their deficiencies, Richmond reached Atlantic 10 play at 7-6 and then won four of their first five A10 games. But at 11-8, it seemed like opposing coaches caught up to Richmond; the Spiders lost eight straight and ended the year 13-17. Simply put, UofR couldn't score. I remember one game against Temple where they only put up 30 points.
To Richmond's credit, they exercised patience with the young Mooney. While most athletic departments clamor for instant results, Richmond let Mooney install his system and get his players. The move paid off after Mooney's second season when Richmond went 8-22. After that year, the Spiders had their first winning year under Mooney and went to the CBI first round. The next year saw them get to the CBI Semis. Next the first round of the NCAA tournament. Finally they made it to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 2011. Mooney quickly became one of the country's hottest coaches; in a rare move, he repaid the loyalty that Richmond had shown him by signing a long-term extension with the Spiders rather than flirting with rumored above the red line jobs elsewhere.
Why the brief Chris Mooney history? Well, Richmond was taking on Mooney's former squad, the Air Force Falcons, on Wednesday. It's a bit rare to see a coach get a crack at his old team, but Mooney had the opportunity. Across town VCU actually writes a clause into their coaches' contracts that if a coach leaves, then the Rams get a one and one series with the school the coach bolts to, hence visits by Alabama and Oklahoma to Broad Street the past couple of years.
I didn't know much about the Falcons and I had never seen them before Wednesday. I knew that at first glance it looked like they were having a pretty good season at 8-3. But when I dug a little deeper, I saw that they had not really beaten anyone of note. Their highest rated win actually came against Army in the season opener in Charleston, South Carolina. It was hard to gauge the Falcons because their wins and losses were such extremes. While the academy had not beaten anyone of note their only three losses came to Colorado, Wichita State, and Florida. I'm pretty sure no one really knows what to expect from this team heading into a very tough Mountain West season with Wyoming, UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, and others lurking.
The biggest star for the Falcons was senior guard Michael Lyons who was having a homecoming of sorts. Lyons is leading the Mountain West in scoring with over 19 points per game and came to showcase his talents in his native state. Lyons was from about an hour away, Newport News, and played at Woodside High School before transferring to Massanutten Military Academy his senior year. While Lyons matched his season average with 19 points against the Spiders, it wasn't the best of homecomings for the senior.
This game was never really close and it hit me at halftime with Richmond up 48-30 that I was watching a Red Line Upset in the making! I never really thought about it before because I knew Richmond was the better team, but hey... I'll take it. I thought the game would be closer, especially without star big man Derrick Williams, but the Spiders torched the Falcons. Lyons was the only Falcon in double figures and didn't get much help on the evening. Richmond guards Kendall Anthony and Darien Brothers combined for 56 points on the evening in Richmond's 91-68 victory.
From here both teams await conference play. Richmond will host a 4-8 Rhode Island squad next Wednesday and Air Force prepares for a visit from Nevada the same day.
at RICHMOND 91, AIR FORCE 68
AIR FORCE 8-4 (0-0) -- M. Lyons 7-16 4-6 19; T. Coggins 1-4 0-0 2; T. Fletcher 1-3 0-0 2; M. Fitzgerald 3-7 2-2 9; D. Earls 0-1 2-2 2; T. Broekhuis 2-4 1-2 5; M. Yon 1-2 0-0 3; J. Hammonds 2-3 5-6 9; K. Green 1-3 0-1 3; M. Olesinski 1-1 0-0 2; K. Williams 1-2 4-5 6; C. Michael 0-2 0-0 0; E. Michael 1-2 2-2 4; C. Kammerer 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 22-51 20-26 68.
RICHMOND 10-5 (0-0) -- K. Anthony 8-11 8-9 31; W. Sparrow 2-5 0-0 4; D. Brothers 7-11 5-6 25; G. Robbins 1-6 0-0 2; D. Taylor 2-2 0-0 5; C. Lindsay 2-4 2-3 7; T. Allen 4-7 0-0 8; T. Davis 3-3 2-6 9; A. Nelson-Ododa 0-2 0-1 0; L. Moyer 0-1 0-0 0; L. Piotrowski 0-1 0-0 0; J. Benjamin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-53 17-25 91.
Three-point goals: AFA 4-14 (M. Fitzgerald 1-3; T. Fletcher 0-1; M. Lyons 1-5; K. Green 1-2; J. Hammonds 0-1; M. Yon 1-1; T. Coggins 0-1), RICH 16-26 (D. Brothers 6-9; C. Lindsay 1-3; W. Sparrow 0-1; K. Anthony 7-9; A. Nelson-Ododa 0-1; T. Allen 0-1; T. Davis 1-1; D. Taylor 1-1); Rebounds: AFA 35 (T. Broekhuis 5), RICH 25 (D. Brothers 4); Assists: AFA 14 (T. Fletcher 4), RICH 20 (G. Robbins 5); Total Fouls -- AFA 18, RICH 25; Fouled Out: AFA-None; RICH-A. Nelson-Ododa.
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