Richmond, Mississippi State meet in NIT quarterfinals

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Richmond won its first game in the NIT despite missing its top two scorers due to injury.

The second-seeded Spiders (14-8) hope to get one of them back when they face fourth-seeded Mississippi State (16-14) in the quarterfinals on Thursday in Denton, Texas.

Coach Chris Mooney said he expects leading scorer Blake Francis (16.1 points per game) to be available after a two-game absence due to a hip injury if the 6-foot guard continues to improve. But center Grant Golden won't play again this season because of a fractured finger.

Richmond started slowly without Francis and Golden, falling behind Toledo 13-4 in its tournament opener March 17. But the Spiders quickly turned things around and advanced with a 76-66 victory.

Jacob Gilyard, who had 18 points, five assists and four steals, is Richmond's career leader in assists (578) and leads the nation with 3.6 steals per game.

"We've had pressure on us all year, expectations," Gilyard said. "Going into the game we were just excited to play."

Mooney gave his players credit for not "hanging our heads" without two leaders.

"I think the guys met it head-on," he said.

MSU, which is allowing 66.7 points per game, has held opponents to a collective 37.4 percent shooting in its last seven victories.

"When we're playing well, it starts with our defense," coach Ben Howland said. "Those are things that we have to try to continue to emphasize to give us a chance to play against these really good times at this time of year."

The Bulldogs' shot 50 percent from the floor and 46.2 percent on 3-pointers in a 74-68 victory over Saint Louis in the first round last Saturday. D.J. Stewart Jr. scored 20 points and Iverson Molinar had 19.

MSU has won five of its last eight games after losing six of its last eight before that.

"It's been a real up-and-down year," Howland said.

The winner will face either Louisiana Tech or Western Kentucky in the semifinals Saturday in Frisco, Texas.

--Field Level Media