Kansas stops Richmond in Sweet 16

Defense sinks Spiders’ chances

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SAN ANTONIO | A day before the game, Chris Mooney let the doubt slip out.

“I don’t know,” the Richmond basketball coach said of Kansas, “how well we can guard them.”

The comment dropped away, under the glare of lights, television cameras, microphones and the rest of the trappings of an unexpected run in the NCAA Tournament.

Twenty-four hours later, Mooney’s concern became reality at the Alamodome. In a game that was only close in the opening minutes, Kansas ended Richmond’s run Friday in a Southwest Regional semifinal, 77-57.

“They were able to dictate the game. We weren’t able to slow them down in any way,” Mooney said, sleeves rolled up, tie undone and forehead glistening. “We never were able to get our defense set.”

That defense propelled Richmond’s unlikely trip to the Sweet 16 as a No. 12 seed. Opponents averaged only 60.8 points per game. And the university that’s earned a reputation for slaying high seeds in the tournament tore through the second and third rounds and advanced to Texas.

Against Kansas, the top seed in the Southwest, everything disintegrated.

Already leading the nation in field goal percentage and assists, the Jayhawks methodically dismantled Richmond (29-8). They pushed the ball up the court, not allowing the Spiders to set their defense. When the Spiders could hastily assemble a zone, Kansas kicked the ball out and sank 3-pointer after 3-pointer.

During one stretch, Josh Selby hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions from either corner. He hadn’t hit two 3-pointers in one game for a month and a half. That gave Kansas an extra jolt — if it even needed that — for a 25-4 run that put the game away midway through the first half.

“They took us out of our comfort zone,” Richmond’s Kevin Anderson said. “It was just an off-night. We never really controlled the game, never really settled down.”

Throughout the season, struggles on defense usually translated into sluggishness on offense for Richmond. That was another of Mooney’s concerns that came to life Friday.

Kansas took away Richmond’s back-door cuts, blew up ball screens to Anderson and, most of all, extended its defense and extra foot or two. That forced the Spiders to start their offense from further out and resulted in a series of long 3-point tries that had little chance.

“Coming out and defending, first of all, gives us a lot of energy,” said Brady Morningstar, who paced Kansas (35-2) with 18 points and four 3-pointers. “Then, on the offensive end, we were hitting shots. It makes it better.”

The abrupt ending snapped Richmond’s nine-game win streak and, for the moment, overshadowed the Spiders’ first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1988.

“To lose a game like this where we don’t feel like we played our best is difficult,” Mooney said. “One team gains confidence and one team starts to press a little bit. Unfortunately that was us.”

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