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For Richmond, everything’s coming together at the right time

Three straight wins have improved the collective mood of this Spiders program.

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Richmond Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON, D.C.— No one expected it to be easy this season. Everyone knew obstacles would be fraught for a Richmond team not only dealing with the loss of star T.J. Cline, but also the learning curve that would hinder this team’s young, albeit talented, core. To make matters worse, Khwan Fore missed significant time earlier in the season due to injury.

To the surprise of no one in particular, the Richmond Spiders began the season poorly, finishing non-conference play with a lamentable 2-10 record. It was understandable, really, given the tribulations they encountered prior to reaching that nadir.

However, once conference play began, something finally clicked for the Spiders. Perhaps it was Fore’s return. Perhaps it was that the young team finally got a feel for itself. Perhaps it was simply that the Atlantic-10 was experiencing a down year. These explanations are not mutually exclusive, and they all can be used to rationalize the uptick in Richmond’s good fortune.

It is that good fortune which allowed them to finish tied for 5th in the A10 this season, earning them a seven-seed in the conference tournament. For a team which began the year on such a poor note, it was a small miracle in and of itself.

Clearly, those tiny miracles possessed no expiration date whatsoever, as the Spiders recovered from a late-season slump to finish the season on a two-game winning streak heading into their A10 Tournament matchup against Duquesne.

From start to finish on Thursday night, the Spiders were an offense that was nothing short of breathtaking, nailing shot after shot from long range.

Not only was their three-point shooting impressive, but they also managed to hit 57% of their shots from the field and dominate Duquesne on the glass from beginning to end. It was an absolute clinic that is belied by the 81-68 score.

Jacob Gilyard was on fire.

Grant Golden was a post fiend.

Chris Mooney was a happy man.

Following the win over Duquesne, Mooney expressed the pride he has in his guys, who have finally begun to “look more like a cohesive team.” After months of struggling, the Spiders have finally been vindicated.

Any observer of the Spiders’ win over Duquesne would heartily agree. The fluidity and ease with which Richmond played was marvelous, as was how their underclassmen grew into key contributors before our very eyes.

Make no mistake: this remarkable shift did not occur overnight.

As Coach Mooney noted after the win over the Dukes, they’re “still a young team,” noting that they are, “not quite as young now as we were in November.” In order for a young team like that to take root and blossom, experience is the key to producing something successful and lasting.

With this in mind, Coach Mooney attested to how “the experience that we do have has paid off” for Richmond, a fact which no onlooker can dispute. The numbers simply speak for themselves.

But despite all of what we have seen in the months now behind us, some still are not satisfied. For a few seasons now, there has been a group of Richmond fans who wish for Mooney to be fired. They dub themselves the #FireMooneyMafia.

Honestly, I don’t really understand their beef with him.

Maybe it is the Sweet 16 appearance?

Maybe it is his five 20-win seasons?

Or maybe it’s their own unreasonable expectations of success for a team built around freshmen and sophomores that went from an awful start to a promising finish that still has not been completed.

As of now, there’s no reason why anyone should be discussing Mooney leaving this program. Once again, he has many young, talented players on his roster who are just now getting the hang of his system (one that is proven to be successful, might I add). Things are on the upswing and — in his 13th season with the Spiders — it seems as if he’s beginning a fresh start.