ST. BONAVENTURE — It would have been difficult under the best of circumstances, but the Richmond basketball team was operating at a deficit even before tipoff on Saturday afternoon at the soldout Reilly Center.
You see the Spiders, who had won six of their last seven games including three straight on the road, were facing a St. Bonaventure team whose star point guard, Jaylen Adams, was coming off 40- and 44-point games against Duquesne and Saint Louis, respectively, and looking for a sixth straight Atlantic 10 victory for the first time in 35 years while playing in front of an Alumni Weekend capacity crowd of 5,480.
Unfortunately Richmond, a team with five double-figure starters, thanks to a virtual non-contributing bench, was without its No. 3 scorer, sophomore guard De’Monte Buckingham, suffering the lingering effects of cramps that hospitalized him.
When it was over at the RC, St. Bonaventure (18-6, 8-4 A-10) owned a 97-88 victory and had moved into a tie for second with Davidson in the conference, exactly where it was predicted to be in the Atlantic 10’s preseason poll.
Richmond (9-15, 7-5) was done in by the Bonnies’ deadly backcourt duo of Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, who each scored 24, and the rest of the starting lineup that also reached double figures.
The Spiders had a high-scoring tandem of its own — guard Nick Sherod tallied 26 and freshman center 24 — but their combined 50 points couldn’t make up for the injury loss of De’Monte Buckingham and his 12 points per game, which was replaced by a 5-point scorer.
AFTERWARD, Richmond coach Chris Mooney, an easy winner in an actor Judge Reinhold look-alike contest, allowed, “St. Bonaventure is terrific … their two guards are great, the best backcourt we’ve played.
“Today was going to be hard for anybody to beat the Bonnies here … it was a great atmosphere (and) they shot the ball well from the beginning (55 percent in the first half, 50 for the game).”
Last season, at Richmond, an injured Adams didn’t play, and Mobley was held to 17 points as the Spiders won, 78-61.
But, his first time playing both on Bona’s high-scoring guards, Mooney admitted, “It’s just too much … Adams is great, to have a guy with back-to-back 40-point games, and he doesn’t hunt his shot, is amazing.
“He’s an instinctual player, he makes great passes, great decisions. I don’t feel like his mind is cluttered with ‘I’m going to try to score here’ even though scoring is something he does very well.”
The Princeton alum added, “Mobley is a very aggressive player. He can really shoot … I think he made his first three (he did, and in less than two minutes) and when that’s the second-best guy ... that creates a lot of problems.
“I imagine it’s hard for anybody to guard both of them. With the amount of screens they set for Adams, he can really exploit every part of it. He’s great at finding guys, he’s great at finishing or pulling up for a three. It’s really hard to guard him and you’ve just got to hope he doesn’t make too many shots.”
Still, it was Bona’s role players who were so integral to a critical win.
“Adams is the key, those guys (Courtney Stockard and and Amadi Ikpeze, 12 points each, Idris Taqqee 11) get the ball … they get the ball a ton for having such great guards,” Mooney conceded. “It’s not like they keep the ball between themselves … Adams really shares the ball.”
Still, after his team logged its highest offensive total of the season, Mooney was realistic about the result.
“The way the atmosphere was, the way those guys were shooting early, it was going to be really hard to beat them today,” he admitted. “De’Monte is pretty much the heart and soul of our team so that’s going to be a big, big loss any time we don’t have him, especially today.
“(But) the way the atmosphere was, it was going to be hard to beat them today, it would have been much better for us if De’Monte had played.”
Still, the Spiders 88 points were seven better than their previous best … and on the road.
“We talked about controlling the pace a little bit … Princeton offense,” the university’s alumnus said. “But we didn’t score well … they guarded us in the half-court. When we moved and pushed the ball, we had a much better opportunity.”
And though he got 50 points from his freshman center and sophomore guard, Mooney admitted, “I’d take two guards like (St. Bonaventure’s) because they put so much pressure on you every possession … it’s like, when they run they’re great, but those three-to-four seconds between running in transition and going to a secondary option, that’s where they’re exceptional, the decision-making of Adams and the shot-making of both of them is really hard to guard.”
Of his team’s plan on guarding Adams, Mooney concluded, “A great player versus a good scheme, the great player is going to win … especially somebody who has the ball and has such command of the ball.”
And Adams does both.
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)