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IUPUI comes up just short at Richmond

INDIANAPOLIS – IUPUI head coach Jason Gardner has said multiple times that this season is a learning process. The good news for the Jaguars is the process is beginning to pay dividends. For the second straight game, the Jaguars took their opponents’ best shot and answered with one of their own. The bad news is they still lost. A 21-3 run spanning both halves gave the Jaguars a four-point lead midway through the second half, but they couldn’t finish off Richmond and succumbed to their three-point barrage, falling 57-53.

Mason Archie led IUPUI with 12 points and Elijah Ray added 11 points on only eight shots. Seven of Ray’s 11 points came at the end of the first half and kept the Jaguars close enabling them to make a run in the second half.

Kendall Anthony scored 19 for the Spiders, including 5-for-7 behind the 3-point line. The Spiders shot a blistering 10-for-18 from 3-point range collectively.

Down 26-12 after a 13-0 run from Richmond, Archie and ShawnDre’ Jones traded 3-pointers. Ray knocked down a jumper on the next possession to cut the lead to 29-17. After splitting a pair of free throws with 3:11 to go in the half, Ray got two buckets at the rim, both assisted from Justus Stanback, to close out the half and pull the Jaguars within seven points, 29-22.

Stanback continued his strong play in the second half, scoring the first four points for IUPUI and cutting the Richmond lead to three points, 29-26 with 18:05 remaining. IUPUI finally got out in front 34-32 a few minutes later after baskets on three consecutive possessions from Archie, DavRon Williams and Ray.

Down 48-45 after a T.J. Cline bucket with 4:00 to go, Khufu Najee knocked down a jumper to pull within a point. He scored again on each of the next two possessions, but a pair of Alonzo Nelson-Odada jumpers and Anthony free throws kept Richmond up 55-51.

Marcellus Barksdale’s layup with 24 seconds left made it a one possession game, 55-53, and Anthony missed the front end of his 1-and-1 to give IUPUI the ball with the chance to tie or take the lead. Unfortunately, Archie’s jumper with five seconds left didn’t go and Richmond held on.

This wasn’t the first time for IUPUI that the game came down to the final possession. They’ve played into overtime three times going 2-1 in those games and they held off Milwaukee to win 70-68 on November 19. While it will go down as their ninth loss, the good news is they answered Richmond’s 13-0 run and kept the result in doubt until the horn blew. During the team’s six-game losing streak earlier in the season, that wasn’t always the case. It was common to see their opponents break the game open after a close first half and see IUPUI limp to the finish.

Another positive for the Jaguars was Najee’s strong return. He scored all eight of his points in the final 8:30 and finished 3-for-6 from the floor in his first game back from injury since the November 22 game against Ball State.

While the Gotham Classic will come to a close after IUPUI’s game at Pepperdine this Saturday, the road trip will continue into the new year. Tuesday’s game with Richmond was just the first of five straight on the road, the longest such stretch for IUPUI this season.

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