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Friday, January 23, 2004

Richmond hangs close, strikes

Spiders keep pressure on Jayhawks, claim surprising win

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Richmond guard Tony Dobbins couldn't pinpoint the exact moment when he knew a stunning victory was brewing Thursday night against No. 12 Kansas University, but he had a good idea why it happened.

Basically, the Jayhawks let the Spiders do what spiders do best -- hang around, trap you in their web and pounce. That's exactly what Richmond did to shock Kansas, 69-68, at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas (11-3) consistently held a six-point edge in the second half, but failed to deliver a knockout punch.

"It's always tough when you're the home team and you're expected to win, because that was the case tonight," said Dobbins, who eventually hit the game-winner with 1.3 seconds left. "They were expected to win, so at a point in the game the pressure kind of shifts to them because they're on their home court. They're supposed to be blowing us out."

Under the watchful eyes of 16,300 restless fans, Kansas wilted under that pressure. Meanwhile, Richmond didn't fear the fieldhouse, the capacity crowd or the national-television spotlight. Instead, it rose to the occasion.

"Our kids handled the environment really well," said Richmond coach Jerry Wainwright. "All of a sudden they got the feeling that we could win. The building's not going to score a basket unless you let it score a basket."

The Jayhawks led 63-54 with 6:21 remaining, but made just two shots the rest of the game. Turnovers by Keith Langford and Wayne Simien bumbled away scoring opportunities. Then Langford and Aaron Miles each bricked two free throws.

Richmond (10-8) weaved its pick-and-roll offense around the KU defense to create timely treys all game long, and once again it freed Mike Skrocki for a pair of three-pointers. Patrick O'Malley added a third with 47 seconds left. That put the Spiders in position for their final strike that played out consistently with the previous five minutes as Kansas squirmed and struggled to maintain composure.

"We knew we were going to play zone on the last possession because we had the shot clock in our favor," Skrocki said. "They passed it around, and we were able to match up with them pretty well."

photo

Kansas University coach Bill Self stomps on the Allen Fieldhouse court during the Jayhawks' 69-68 loss to Richmond. Self picked up his first technical as KU's coach in the loss Thursday at KU.

Dobbins blocked Miles' three-point try with 11.1 seconds left, and then hit a spinning, fadeaway jumper over Miles for the win.

"I knew that I had a smaller defender on me," Dobbins said, "and I just drove, drove, spun back and shot it. I shot the same shot the first play of the game and left it short."

Through it all, the Spiders seemed unfazed. They had shot just 35 percent, been outrebounded by 13 and thrashed in the paint when KU went there, but they stuck to the plan.

"You have to have a sense of being able to seize the moment," Dobbins said, "and that's something we were able to do. We relish being able to come in here in a hostile environment. This is a building with a lot of tradition and a lot of history, and we were just glad to be a part of it. But we didn't want to be content with being a part of it. We wanted to play hard and try to get a victory."

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