Despite the Owls finding out that redshirt-junior center Michael Eric would be out for the season with a fractured patella the day before facing a Richmond team that has a then-identical conference record of 9-2, the team maintained its composure and defeated the Spiders, 73-53.
Eric injured himself in practice on Tuesday.
“It was a freak accident, [sophomore guard Khalif Wyatt] and Mike kind of ran into each other,” redshirt-junior guard Ramone Moore said. “That’s unfortunate for Mike, we’re going to miss him a lot.”
“When these kinds of things happen, the first concern you have is for the guy,” coach Fran Dunphy added.
“Mike is a good man, he’s worked hard to get to where he is, so when you get that word when the doctor says ‘you have a fractured patella and you’re out for the season,’ that’s pretty devastating for a young guy.”
Starting in place for Eric was sophomore forward Rahlir Jefferson, who had previously made his first career start in place of the injured Lavoy Allen against Dayton last Saturday.
The Owls didn’t seem to miss a beat without Eric as the team shot 51.7 percent in the first half that included an 11-2 run fueled by a 13 point first half performance from Moore as the Owls took a 38-29 lead at halftime and the team really got hot in the second half.
Moore continued to score and would finish as the Owls leading scorer with 24 points. Junior guard Juan Fernandez finished with 20 points, marking the first time he has reached that plateau since Dec. 30 against Villanova. The Argentine guard only missed one shot in the whole game as he shot nine of 10 from the floor and contributed to the team’s second half shooting percentage sitting at 60 percent.
“Personally, for me it was a good game, but more importantly, it was a good team win,” Fernandez said. “You just have to grab the ball and throw it up there as fast as possible without thinking.”
“It’s not an easy thing to do. Believe me, I’ve been working on it and hopefully this is the start of something new,” Fernandez added.
Junior forward Scootie Randall also chipped in 10 points. Another contributing factor for the Owls success against the Spiders was the senior forward Lavoy Allen’s ability to avoid foul trouble as he was able to play defense for 37 minutes of action, which didn’t create a situation where Dunphy would need to give those minutes to a short bench.
“You don’t worry about the team, the team has this resiliency about them that they’ll come together and form this support system with one another and they’ll be OK.” Dunphy said.
The win brings the Owls to 20-5 overall with a 10-2 record in the Atlantic Ten Conference and marks the fourth consecutive 20-win season for the program.
On Sunday, the Owls will face St. Joseph’s at home at 4 p.m. in a Big 5 matchup.
Brian Dzenis can be reached at email@example.com.