TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Don’t close the doors of the Robins Center just yet.
The University of Richmond men’s basketball team is coming back home after taking down SEC foe Alabama, 71-64, in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday night on ESPN2. The Spiders will now host Oakland, the Horizon League regular season champion, at home on a date and time yet to be determined.
The win marks the 21st over a power 5 school during Coach Mooney’s tenure with the Spiders.
Facing one the nation’s top-10 defenses, the Spiders shredded the Crimson Tide to the tune of 54-percent from the field and nearly 40-percent from long range. The 71 points is just the third time in the past 12 games that Alabama gave up 70-plus, one of which was to SEC Champion Kentucky.
Leading the Spiders was senior ShawnDre' Jones who finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting. It’s the 10th 20-plus point performance of Jones’ senior season. Classmate T.J. Cline finished with 15 points (13 of which came in the second half), six rebounds and three assists.
Freshman De'Monte Buckingham scored in double-figures for the sixth time in the past seven games, finishing with 14 points, five rebounds and four steals on the night. Alabama native Khwan Fore was the fourth Spider in double-figures with 11 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Alabama jumped out to a quick lead, but Buckingham wouldn’t let it last long, scoring seven straight points for the Spiders to grab a 13-9 lead for the Spiders with 13:07 to play in the first.
A three-pointer from Jones would push the lead to seven at 18-11, but the Crimson Tide answered with seven straight points to tie the game at 18 with 8:43 remaining before the break.
Five points from Buckingham ignited a 9-2 Spider run that would send Richmond into halftime with a 36-32 lead.
Alabama would come out in the second half much like they did the first with a quick punch in the form of a 7-0 run that reclaimed the lead at 39-36 with 18:57 to play.
However, the Spiders answered once again, scoring six straight points, including back-to-back buckets by Cline to grab a 42-39 advantage.
The second half would feature five ties and neither team leading by more than five for most of the period.
With the game tied at 61-61 with 5:16 remaining, Cline made a great move for a layup and the Spiders defense came up with seven consecutive stops, which allowed the Richmond offense to expand on the lead at the free-throw line, where Cline would put the game away with two free-throws of his own with 24 seconds to play.
Fore would cap off his homecoming with a game-ending dunk to seal the 71-64 win.
A time and date for the second round matchup with Oakland will be determined and announced on RichmondSpiders.com and Richmond men’s basketball social media outlets.