For about 23 minutes, Richmond seemed the perfect hors d’oeuvres to Air Force’s upcoming conference season, which remains a month away.
The final 17 minutes, however, were about enough to ruin a Thanksgiving appetite.
The Spiders made 17 of their final 25 attempts, blowing open what had been a tie game and leaving Clune Arena with an 83-60 victory in Wednesday night.
“I’ll be a grouch for a while,” coach Dave Pilipovich said. “I may get kicked out of the house, but I’ll be all right.”
The Falcons, sorely lacking in depth as captains DeLovell Earls and Kamryn Williams continue to be out with injuries, were right with Richmond through the early minutes of the second half when the score was tied 35-35. In fact, it seemed Air Force might have the upper hand as it had suffered through several first-half turnovers on deflected passes to cutting teammates and a few easy shots clanged out. With those issues corrected, it looked like this could be a breakthrough game.
Then the wheels fell off in front of 2,091 in attendance.
Richmond exploited that lack of depth by pounding the ball inside, gaining confidence and then spreading that to the perimeter, where 7 of 10 second-half 3s found the bucket.
“We had opportunities and we didn’t take advantage of them,” said Tre’ Coggins, who led Air Force with 16 points. “They were a better team today and their athleticism is what beat us, for the most part.”
Kendall Anthony came off the bench to score 19 points for Richmond (5-2). Anthony, who scored 31 against Air Force last year, made 5-of-7 3-pointers and had his 19 points in 26 minutes. Terry Allen also had 19 points and Cedrick Lindsay had 16.
The stat sheet certainly reflected what seemed like a mismatch in athleticism. Richmond led 22-8 in points off turnovers, 15-7 in second-chance points, 4-0 in fast-break points and 30-24 in the point. As for depth, the Spiders’ bench outscored Air Force’s 33-6.
Foul trouble hurt the Falcons, as Justin Hammonds had eight points and eight rebounds at halftime but played sparingly after picking up his fourth foul early in the second half and finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.
“They’re really young,” said Richmond coach Chris Mooney, who spent five years on Air Force’s coaching staff. “Dave’s an outstanding coach and I can see how hard they play for him. I think Coggins is a terrific player and I think their other guys are going to be good, they’re just a little bit young right now.
“When you’re young everything starts to show up – lack of experience, lack of strength a little bit. But I think they have a bright future and just need to stay together and continue to do what they’re doing.”
Richmond also slapped Air Force with a 23-point defeat a year ago, and the Falcons promptly responded by winning six of their next eight.
“It was a great experience,” said Marek Olesinski, who scored 14 for Air Force. “This was probably the best competition we’ve played this season. For the freshmen, especially, it was good to see this and hopefully we can learn from this and move on.”
Even Pilipovich, who was clearly in a foul mood, recognized that this game could help his team.
“We needed this,” Pilipovich said. “We need to get punched in the face a little bit because this is what we’re going to see in January, February and March. We’ve got to grow, got to grow, got to grow – and we will.”
Note: Mooney received a loud ovation during pregame announcements. “That was incredibly nice,” he said. “I was really touched. I love that I was a part of this place because there are so many special people. That was a really nice touch that I didn’t expect.”