American University gave Richmond fits for all of 32 minutes. It was the remaining eight minutes last night that were the problem for the Eagles.
Richmond got quality performances from John Newman and Rodney Rice when it counted most and pulled away from American midway in the second half en route to a 76-68 Colonial Athletic Association victory at Fort Myer.
Newman had 24 points, 16 in the second half, and eight rebounds. Rodney Rice, former All-Met at St. John's, finished with 16 points for the Spiders, who improved their overall record to 21-4 and CAA mark to 12-1 to remain tied for first place with Navy.
AU fell to 9-16 and 2-11.
The Eagles play their final CAA game Monday night against visiting William and Mary.
Trailing by 38-29 early in the second half, AU went to its full-court press and began cutting into Richmond's lead. Frank Ross (26 points) sank two free throws, Chuck West (16 points) had a breakaway after a turnover, Eric White hit a short jumper and West added a free throw as the Eagles closed to within 39-38 with 17:40 to play.
"We can't run with those guys," Richmond's Greg Beckwith said. "They put the pressure on us and we made some turnovers, more than we usually make. We just didn't do a good job playing defense."
Both teams went into a scoring drought for three minutes. But the Eagles pulled even at 46-46 on another White jumper.
Richmond's Peter Woolfolk, forced into a starting role when John Davis broke his elbow, scored off a steal to put his team back in front seconds later.
When it needed to play its best, AU wasn't up to the task. Over the next three minutes, the Eagles missed two shots and a free throw, committed a turnover and, worse yet, West picked up his fourth foul.
"When Chuck got his fourth foul, we couldn't keep our defensive pressure up," AU Coach Ed Tapscott said. "He was playing well. We missed a couple of shots and then we had to stop Richmond, too. They caused us to have some scoring lulls but we couldn't do it to them."
The one player American couldn't stop was Newman. Not experiencing a typical game, according to Coach Dick Tarrant, the 6-foot-7 senior scored eight of his team's points and got four rebounds as Richmond began to open up a lead. Rice also hit two long jumpers, Beckwith slipped in for a layup and Steve Kratzer converted a three-point play for a 66-52 advantage with four minutes to play.
"That streak was more Newman than anyone," Tarrant said. "He got us going. We just don't have that killer instinct -- we can't finish people off."