Richmond overcomes Johnson’s double-double debut

Published 3:42 pm Tuesday, December 15, 2015

T.J. Cline poured in a game-high 18 points as one of five double-figure scorers who propelled Richmond to a 77-59 win over visiting Longwood University men’s basketball Saturday evening in the Robins Center.

Playing in front of a traveling Longwood contingent of approximately 300 alumni and fans, Cline scored 10 of his 18 points in the first half as the Spiders (6-3) built a 15-point lead by halftime and cruised to their fourth straight home win.

Cline and reigning Atlantic 10 Player of the Week Terry Allen combined for 34 points, while ShawnDre Jones added 12, Marshall Wood added 11 and Trey Davis added 10.

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Allen’s scoring came in bursts, including nine points during a game-changing 16-2 run over the final 8:12 of the first half. The 6-8, 240-pound senior neared a double-double with nine rebounds, while Cline hit 6-of-8 shots from the floor and added six assists to key a .464 (26-of-56) shooting effort from the Spiders.

“They are a really good team, I think the best team I’ve coached against since I’ve been here,” said Longwood head coach Jayson Gee.

Cline and Allen’s production helped the Spiders overcome a near triple-double from Longwood senior forward Shaquille Johnson, who added 10 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in his 2015-16 debut.

Behind his double-double and a team-high 17 points from Kanayo Obi-Rapu, Longwood was just three points shy of matching Richmond’s production in the second half.

However, that 15-point halftime lead provided a large enough cushion for Richmond to coast to the win despite Longwood’s best second-half heroics. While Obi-Rapu drained 10 of his points after the break and dove for numerous loose balls during a an eventful final four minutes, Richmond maintained a 48 percent shooting pace to keep Longwood’s longest run to six points.

“Their execution is difficult to prepare for, and there’s just nothing you can do defensively against them,” Gee said.

“They’ll confuse you offensively and then they’ll confuse you defensively. It looks like they’re not guarding anybody, but then it’s tough to get into the lane.”

Richmond used that lane-clogging defense to smother Longwood center Lotanna Nwogbo, who entered the night on a streak of five consecutive double-figure scoring games. Richmond snapped that streak by deploying a swarm of double and triple teams every time Nwogbo touched the ball, ultimately holding the preseason all-conference center to just 4-of-7 shooting from the floor and three free throw attempts for the game.

Nwogbo finished with nine points and nine rebounds amid the added attention, doing the bulk of his damage during an opening surge in which the Lancers trailed by just one point with 8:12 left in the half. Longwood could not hold the 43rd-ranked Spiders down for long, however, as Allen carried them with nine points during the ensuing game-changing 16-2 run that ballooned a 21-20 lead to 37-22.

“I thought we came out with a lot of confidence and I thought Nwogbo was a big key to that,” Gee said. “He’s really a tough kid, and he fought as much as anyone tonight. I thought he was an animal tonight, and he really forced them to adjust to him. He’s shown his ability to be the best big man on the floor and we have three more games to get it right.”

Johnson took advantage of the added attention Nwogbo faced and sank 5-of-8 shots off the bench while dishing six assists that led to 15 points. Dating back to his three-game surge in the 2015 Big South Tournament, Johnson has three double-doubles in his past four games and four straight double-digit rebounding performances during that span.

“If [Johnson] isn’t in that game tonight, we’re really struggling,” Gee said. “I want to give him credit for his humility and his attitude, and how he’s practiced and how he’s handled his adversity. He’s come back a better man, he’s come back a better teammate, and he’s come back with a better overall attitude. He’s a more mature young man whom Lancer fans should be excited about seeing.”

Johnson will continue to work his way back into the mix this Tuesday when the Lancers head to Oklahoma State for a 9 p.m. EST showdown on ESPNU. The game will mark the Longwood men’s basketball program’s first appearance on an ESPN television network.