By Pat Graham
DENVER (AP) Richmond plays the role of favorite pretty well, too.
The program that made its name by bouncing everyone from Barkley to Boeheim out of the tournament over the decades in a string of upsets, defeated No. 13 seed Morehead State 65-48 on Saturday to advance to the round of 16 for the first time since 1988.
As the better seed and a four-point favorite, this was one the 12th-seeded Spiders were to “supposed” to win and they did. They got 19 points from Justin Harper and turned Eagles big man Kenneth Faried into pretty much a nonfactor.
The Spiders (29-7) will play the winner of Kansas-Illinois in the Southwest regional semifinals next Friday in San Antonio.
Richmond bottled up the NBA prospect Faried by shadowing him with two, sometimes three, players.
Faried, the leading Division I rebounder in the modern era, finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds but it was about as quiet as a double-double gets.
The Eagles (25-10), the darlings of the tournament after knocking off Louisville, were sent home but not before tying a school record for wins and gaining plenty of interest in their tiny school located in Morehead, Ky.
For a rare change, Richmond entered the game as a favorite, a departure from the usual underdog role the team has assumed in the tournament – and played to virtual perfection.
The Spiders have carved out a reputation as upset artists, becoming the only school to win games as a No. 12, 13, 14 and 15 seed. They eliminated fifth-seeded Vanderbilt, 69-66, in their opener.
But that win over the Commodores hardly counted as a shocker, especially given their history this time of year.
The Spiders ended the season of an Auburn team led by Charles Barkley during the 1984 NCAA tournament.
Barkley’s now in the TV booth and Richmond is still springing memorable wins.
Richmond also beat Jim Boeheim’s second-seeded Syracuse squad in 1991 and years later knocked out South Carolina in 1998 as a No. 14 seed.
This is the first time the Spiders moved on to the round of 16 more than two decades ago, when the team was a 13th seed. The Spiders beat Indiana and then Georgia Tech that season, before losing to Temple.
The Eagles turned into quite a story since Demonte Harper’s winning 3-pointer in the waning seconds lifted his team to a 62-61 win over the Cardinals.
Faried & Co. made the rounds of national sports shows, while campus visits to the small school – enrollment 9,000 – went through the roof, along with requests for applications.
Just imagine what another upset could’ve done for the university’s popularity?
Terrance Hill and Ty Proffitt each scored 10 points, but Demonte Harper, the team’s second-leading scorer, was ice cold, finishing 2 of 15 and had just four points.
Trailing by as many as 10 points in the opening half, the Eagles worked their way back into the game, cutting the deficit to six midway through the second half.
But Justin Harper helped the Spiders assert control, scoring eight points during a pivotal 11-4 run. The 6-foot-9 Geriot all but sealed the win when he hit a 3-pointer with 4:31 remaining, giving Richmond a 56-43 lead.
Kevin Anderson, who had a team-high 25 points against Vandy, came on late, finishing with 14 points. Geriot added 13 points, many on simple turnaround shots near the free throw line.
The Spiders have now won nine straight since coach Chris Mooney called for a friendly touch football game following a loss to Temple on Feb. 17. They have not won this many in a row since the 1990-91 season.
Faried reached the 2,000-point plateau in his storied career with a thunderous dunk during the opening minute against Richmond.
He also posted his 86th double-double, leaving him one shy of Tim Duncan’s all-time record.
No wonder Faried had his jersey retired by the school, even before his playing days were even complete. Faried’s uniform was raised to the rafters during a ceremony on senior day.
This was more of a ceremonial honor, since his No. 35 will still be worn by the next generation of Eagles. The only number officially retired by Morehead was the football jersey belonging to former alum and New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms.
This was only the ninth meeting between No. 12 and 13 seeds in tournament history.
And history wasn’t exactly on Morehead’s side. Valparaiso was the lone No. 13 seed to advance, beating No. 12 Florida State 83-77 in overtime in 1998.
© 2011 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.