Atlantic 10 Tournament underway in Richmond as Spiders, Rams await openers

Atlantic 10 Tournament underway in Richmond as Spiders, Rams await openers
VCU hosts the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament on March 3, 2021. (Source: WWBT NBC12)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - March Madness has arrived in Richmond.

The Atlantic 10 men’s basketball tournament tipped off on Wednesday at the Siegel Center, beginning the hopeful marches for 14 teams to a conference championship. Wednesday’s first round action was held at the Siegel Center, second round and quarterfinal games will be split between VCU and Richmond, with the semifinals returning to VCU on Saturday. The A-10 championship game will be held at Dayton on Sunday, March 14.

250 spectators will be permitted at each site in Richmond. Those fans at the Siegel Center on Wednesday saw St. Joseph’s move onto the second round with a 72-66 victory over La Salle and George Washington hold off Fordham, 53-49.

Richmond opens its tournament slate on Thursday morning at 11:00 against Duquesne. The Spiders limped down the stretch of the regular season, losing their final two games against Saint Louis and St. Joseph’s, dropping them to the No. 8 seed. Senior forward Grant Golden is nursing a fractured finger on his left hand, but will play on Thursday. Guard Blake Francis, the team’s leading scorer at 16.1 points per game, will be a game-time decision, according to head coach Chris Mooney. Francis suffered a back contusion during a hard fall during Monday’s loss to the Hawks. Mooney said he’s been in pain the last two days, though did feel better during practice on Wednesday.

The four other Richmond starters also average in double figures, led by Golden’s 12.9 points per game. Tyler Burton paces the squad in rebounding with 7.5 per contest, while Jacob Gilyard boasts the top steals rate in the nation at 3.55 per outing. Richmond is tops in the conference in turnovers committed per game at 10.3, good enough for ninth in the country.

Back on February 20, the Spiders topped Duquesne, 79-72. Richmond held a 15 point first half lead, but had to hold off the Dukes down the stretch.

Meanwhile, VCU will wait until Friday to tip off, as the Rams earned the No. 2 seed and received a bye to the quarterfinals. They’ll meet either Dayton or Rhode Island at the Siegel Center at 3:30 PM. Guards Bones Hyland and Vince Williams are being monitored and were day-to-day at last checked. Hyland is recovering from a sprained foot suffered in VCU’s February 20 loss to George Mason, while Williams sustained an ankle injury in the black and gold’s regular season finale at Davidson.

Hyland is the Rams’ leading scorer at 19.2 points per game, which also leads the conference. Williams is the other VCU player to average in double figures at 11.1 points per contest. Williams and Hason Ward average 5.2 rebounds each, while Ace Baldwin paces the squad in assists (4.4) and steals (2.2). The Rams lead the A-10 in blocked shots, steals and free-throw percentage.

VCU split its regular season meetings with Rhode Island and swept Dayton in two games.

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