Thursday's initial opening round game between #8 seed Richmond and #9 seed Charlotte seemed to be a fairly routine clash of styles. In the basketball equivalence of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Sprat, Richmond would take no inside shots, and Charlotte would take none from outside. Richmond knocked down four trifectas in the first twelve minutes of the contest, and raced out to a 22-14 lead. Late in the first half, Charlotte closed to within 26-21, and when the 49ers' Ivan Benkovic drew a somewhat questionable foul whilst shooting a three-pointer (remember this tidbit for later), he had a chance to bring his team back to within two points. Alas, he made two, then missed the third, and Richmond went on a 5-0 run to close the half with a 31-23 advantage.
Game #9-487: Charlotte 49ers vs. Richmond SpidersMarch 14, 2013 12:00 pm
While Charlotte never really got a perimeter attack going, Richmond was able to diversify its offensive attack, thanks mainly due to the contributions off the bench from freshman forward Terry Allen. When he was in the game, Allen helped to neutralize Charlotte's inside advantage. When he wasn't in the game, the 49ers dominated on the boards. However, as I learned from an intelligent young man at Creighton earlier this year, a three-point shot is worth more than a two-point shot, so when one team is proficient in that area and the other team is not, the non-proficient team is at a disadvantage. So it was here in Brooklyn in the first half.
Early in the second half, Richmond's Derrick Williams, a 6'6", 285 pound junior, who looks as far from a three-point threat as you could imagine, knocked down his second superhoop of the game, and the Spiders lead had increased to 35-25. Just as I was ready to consider this one to be over, Charlotte went on a 12-0 run, keyed by senior Chris Braswell, a talented low-post scorer (for Charlotte, you'd expect nothing less, of course!) who had done absolutely nothing in the first half. Richmond's perimeter attack fell off during this run, as they missed five straight threes during that stretch. The only real warning sign for Charlotte at this point was that they were starting to pile up some fouls, and Richmond got into the bonus relatively early in that second half.
Once Charlotte took the second half lead, we had ourselves an old-fashioned barnburner. No team led by more than four points, and as soon as one team would take the lead, the other would immediately respond and re-assume control. For Charlotte, either Braswell or Willie Clayton would set up on the low post for scoring opportunities, or the fabulous Pierria Henry would drive to the basket for layups - still nothing from the perimeter. For Richmond, they did almost nothing but draw fouls and parade repeatedly to the foul line. Over a six minute period late in the game, all nine of their points came one at a time from 15 feet away.
With just over a minute remaining, and Charlotte leading 54-52, Richmond's Allen connected on a three-pointer, the Spiders' defense then forced a turnover, and Richmond's Cedrick Lindsay scored to put Richmond in control. Leading 57-54, with less than 30 seconds to go, against a team that hadn't hit a three-pointer all day, it looked like Richmond would have to have a complete collapse to let this one slip away. The creepy Richmond mascot was leading the celebration!
Recognizing its deficiency, Charlotte disregarded attempts at a tying three-pointer, instead driving the ball straight to the basket for easy layups. Henry scored again to cut the lead to 57-56, then Charlotte fouled immediately. The problem with this strategy was that Charlotte had too many players in foul trouble, and had already had Denzel Ingram foul out. Terrance Williams was disqualified after his foul on Darien Brothers. Brothers made both free throws, and Henry quickly followed with another layup. E. Victor Nickerson fouled out after his foul on Lindsay, and Lindsay made both free throws. When Henry misfired on a three-point attempt, Clayton tipped it in to cut the Richmond lead to 61-60 with nine seconds to play, Charlotte called a timeout.
Knowing you need to foul immediately, barring a chance at a steal, I was amazed that Charlotte coach Alan Major did not substitute for Braswell and Clayton, each of whom had four fouls. The inbound pass came to Lindsay, Braswell committed the foul, and Charlotte was forced to go deeper into portions of its bench that were heretofore unused. Even if they could get this game into overtime, Charlotte seemed to have no chance to win. Lindsay made both free throws with six seconds to go, and Richmond led 63-60.
To foul or not to foul - that is the question. Recent trends seem to favor fouling in the final seconds when you lead by three points and the opponent has the ball. Should that decision be impacted when the opponent has missed every three-point attempt in the game, and when that opponent has dominated you on the boards? These are questions without definitive answers, but Richmond Coach Chris Mooney opted to foul, sending Henry back to the line with 4.7 seconds left.
Henry made the first. After the shot went through the net, Richmond's Derrick Williams and Charlotte's Clayton made contact and spun from one side of the lane to the other, culminating in Williams shoving Clayton away from him with both hands, with that shove occurring in the shoulder and neck area. Williams was immediately assessed a technical foul. I'm not sure whether the call was correct or not, but I was impressed that the official made a prompt and definitive call; after further discussion with the other officials, the call stood. To his credit, Mooney, while being stunned by the call, remained fairly calm. Here you can see Mooney politely informing the official that his call had likely single-handedly decided the game. While that was no doubt true, I wasn't very sympathetic to Mooney's complaint - it was a very aggressive action by Williams that was totally unwarranted and unnecessary; the official made a gutsy call, and I thought it was probably the right one.
Henry made the second foul shot to cut the lead back to one, and the officials then sent Clayton to the line. Here, more controversy ensued. S ince Williams' foul occurred in a dead-ball situation, it was a technical foul rather than a personal foul, so Clayton did not have to shoot the free throws. Instead, Henry went back to the line and made both shots. Charlotte now led 64-63 and, because of the technical foul, had the ball out of bounds.
The inbounds pass went to Henry, who appeared to dodge initial contact before being wrapped up by Richmond's Greg Robbins. Coincident with the contact from Robbins, Henry heaved the ball towards the basket. The same official declared Henry to be in the act of shooting, which I guess he actually was, and awarded him three free throws. Of course, it is totally preposterous that Henry would attempt a 45-foot jump shot with a one-point lead and three seconds to play, and Mooney (no longer calm, and no longer wearing his jacket) informed the official that he too thought that to be preposterous. Two quick technical fouls were called, and Mooney got a three second head start to the locker room.
This was an amazing and unfortunate end to an interesting and competitive game, with a mental mistake and an ejection from the team I thought to be the least likely to do each. Maybe the initial technical foul call is one that shouldn't have been made, but I think Williams' actions were the most questionable. His team battled for nearly forty minutes to get the upper-hand in this hotly contested game, and he gave that advantage away in an instant. The play was over at that point, and there was nothing to be gained for Williams and Richmond. Instead, the game was lost in that moment. Unbelievable!
CHARLOTTE 68, RICHMOND 63
CHARLOTTE 21-10 (8-8) -- P. Henry 8-14 12-15 28; D. Ingram 1-6 0-0 2; W. Clayton 8-12 2-4 18; E. Nickerson 0-5 0-0 0; T. Williams 2-9 2-2 6; C. Braswell 4-7 4-4 12; I. Benkovic 0-0 2-3 2; D. Clark 0-0 0-0 0; C. Lewis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-53 22-28 68.
RICHMOND 18-14 (8-8) -- G. Robbins 1-3 0-1 2; T. Allen 4-9 5-9 14; D. Brothers 2-9 5-6 10; C. Lindsay 5-10 7-7 19; D. Williams 3-3 5-6 13; K. Anthony 1-6 0-0 3; A. Nelson-Ododa 0-0 0-0 0; T. Davis 0-2 0-0 0; D. Taylor 0-2 0-0 0; W. Sparrow 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 17-45 22-29 63.
Three-point goals: CHAR 0-5 (E. Nickerson 0-1; T. Williams 0-1; P. Henry 0-2; D. Ingram 0-1), RICH 7-21 (D. Brothers 1-4; G. Robbins 0-1; C. Lindsay 2-5; D. Williams 2-2; K. Anthony 1-4; T. Allen 1-3; D. Taylor 0-2); Rebounds: CHAR 38 (P. Henry 12), RICH 20 (T. Allen 9); Assists: CHAR 9 (P. Henry 4), RICH 7 (G. Robbins 3); Total Fouls -- CHAR 28, RICH 18; Fouled Out: CHAR-E. Nickerson; RICH-None.