No. 19 Spiders hope to keep climbing vs. No. 11 Mountaineers
The No. 19 Richmond Spiders are ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time since March 15, 2010 and on an eight-game winning streak dating back to last season.
The Spiders (4-0), who already took down then-No. 10 Kentucky on the road on Nov. 29, face another tough opponent Sunday when they visit Morgantown to take on No. 11 West Virginia (5-1).
"We have to forget about the ranking," Richmond forward Tyler Burton said this week. "It's just a target on our back really."
Burton is one of the architects of Richmond's success, averaging 12.8 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.
"Tyler can do so many things well," Richmond coach Chris Mooney said. "He can score on the post, handle the ball. He's a great rebounder and has a nose for the ball."
Grant Golden, who was named to the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar watch list in the preseason, leads the Spiders in scoring (15.3 points per game) and is also averaging 6.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.
Nathan Cayo has been one of their most accurate shooters (70.6 percent) and is averaging 14.5 points and 4.3 rebounds while Jacob Gilyard (12.3 points per game) ranks third in the nation in steals per game (4.3) and 18th in the nation in assists per game (7.0) through Thursday's games.
The Spiders' No. 19 ranking is their highest since the 1957-58 season.
West Virginia's only loss so far came against top-ranked Gonzaga on Dec. 2. The Mountaineers had their scheduled game against Robert Morris on Wednesday canceled due to COVID-19 protocols, but added a game against North Texas this past Friday.
Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe form a formidable two-big tandem for the Mountaineers, although each struggled early in the game shooting a combined 0-for-9 in the first half. Tshiebwe was held scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting, although he finished with seven rebounds.
"Those two guys are good players," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said earlier this week. "Why would you put two guys out there that can't score and take up space with this size? They make it harder for the other teams to score over, but they can generate more offense by putting a guard out there or somebody that can make shots."
Guards Sean McNeil (11 points per game) and reserve Taz Sherman (12 points per game) are contributors in the backcourt along with Miles McBride (13.7 points and 4.5 assists per game).
West Virginia overcame a sloppy first half in which it shot 25.7 percent from the field to beat the visiting Mean Green 62-50. The Mountaineers turned things around by raising up their full-court pressure and slowing down the pace, which contributed to 14 turnovers by North Texas.
Culver, who ranks among the top 20 rebounders in the country averaging 10.7 boards per game, sparked an 18-0 surge to open the second half.
"We got Richmond coming up on Sunday, which is very good," Huggins said. "They're a top twenty team. Then we get into league play with Iowa State. We don't have time to fool around. I was so frustrated with our bigs to start the game. They were just walking around. It was embarrassing."
--Field Level Media
Updated December 11, 2020