With Kevin Anderson leading the way, Richmond is in the hunt for its first Atlantic 10 title. A win at three-time reigning champion Xavier on Sunday afternoon could go a long way for the Spiders.
Anderson will try to help No. 23 Richmond to its longest winning streak in 19 years when it faces a Musketeers team that is dominant at the Cintas Center.
Richmond (22-6, 11-2), ranked for consecutive weeks for the first time since 1957, is tied with Xavier (20-7, 11-2) and No. 20 Temple atop the conference with three regular-season games remaining.
Anderson helped Richmond remain on pace for its first A-10 title since joining the conference in 2001, scoring 24 points with seven assists in a 74-70 win over George Washington last Saturday. The junior guard scored or assisted on 12 of 16 second-half field goals, sinking the go-ahead jumper with 1:22 to play.
“Man, I would fear him if I was the guard guarding him because, at any moment, he can decide to take over the game,” teammate David Gonzalvez said. “When the game is tight and we need big plays, it seems like he’s a fish in water at that moment. Everyone else is so nervous, it’s crunch time, 2 minutes left, we’re down one, up one, and that’s when he’s the most calm and wants the ball the most.”
Anderson leads the Spiders with averages of 17.5 points, 2.7 assists and 2.0 steals, and has them in position to win nine in a row for the first time since Jan. 23-Feb. 20, 1991. Another victory would also set a regular-season team record, but Richmond may be facing its most daunting matchup of the season.
Xavier has won 37 of 38 at home, including 22 in a row by an average of 21.5 points. The Musketeers are also quite familiar with Anderson, who made 11 of 17 shots for 29 points in an 80-75 home victory against then-No. 17 Xavier on March 7.
The Musketeers have won three consecutive matchups at the Cintas Center, overcoming Anderson’s 20 points in an 86-61 victory March 8, 2008.
“The home court is definitely going to be a big difference for us,” senior Jason Love said. “I’m just really, really glad that we’re going to get them here.”
The Musketeers have won four in a row, beating Saint Louis 73-71 on the road Wednesday behind 21 points from Love. The victory gave them a fifth consecutive 20-win season and the 14th in the last 15 years.
Jordan Crawford is looking to continue his strong play as he faces Richmond for the first time. The sophomore guard, who transferred from Indiana, had 26 points against the Billikens and leads Xavier with 20.0 per game.
While the Musketeers are on pace to claim one of the top four seeds and a bye for the Atlantic 10 tournament, Love isn’t looking that far ahead.
“I’m just so focused on this next game, and trying to get this fourth A-10 championship,” he said. “Not a lot of teams can say that they’ve had the opportunity to go for four championships. That’s all I’m locked in on right now. We’re really ready for this game Sunday.”