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Spider 'infestation' expected at Duquesne

There will be more than just the University of Richmond team bus pulling up to Duquesne's Palumbo Center tonight, when the Dukes play host to the Spiders in an Atlantic 10 Conference opener.

Look for a busload of "Greensburg Spider Fans," who'll no doubt make their presence known in a big way while the two teams clash for the 7 p.m. contest.

"I remember the last time they showed up," Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said. "They made a lot of noise, and I'm sure 'Butts' was behind it all."

That was two years ago, when Richmond defeated Duquesne, 66-63, on Feb. 16, 2008, in a tense battle that ended with the cluster of Spiders fans cheering frantically, led by former Richmond player and Greensburg native Jeff Butler, whose son Ryan starts for the current Spiders squad.

Everhart was a player at Virginia Tech during the time Jeff Butler was attending Richmond, and the two men are well acquainted.

"I remember Ron coming over to me after that game and asking me, 'Was that you that got this thing going?'" Butler said with a sly chuckle.

Jeff Butler's brother, Jerry, who still lives in Greensburg, again is organizing a Greensburg-based posse to fill a 54-passenger bus, scheduled to depart Westmoreland County for the Uptown arena at around 5:30 p.m. today. Their father, Jay, a Greensburg resident as well and a former player at Maryland, will be along for the ride.

"We're going to 'white-out' the place," Jeff Butler said. "We're going to fill that thing up, and it's all going to be 'Greensburg Spider Fans.' We've got a good following from there. They'll be Richmond Spider T-shirts for everybody."

Senior forward Ryan Butler's father is a former basketball star at Greensburg Salem. He later played at Robert Morris, when the school competed at the junior college level, then transferred to Richmond.

A tryout with the Atlanta Hawks was unsuccessful before the 6-foot-8 Jeff Butler briefly played professionally overseas. Later on, he coached high school basketball at nearby Douglas Freeman, where his son attended.

"Toughest thing I ever had to do was coaching Ryan's team," Jeff Butler said.

The 6-7 Ryan Butler, who averages 7.5 points in 25.1 minutes and scored a career-high 19 earlier this season against Mississippi State, thrives on his family's presence. Jeff Butler said he attends all of his son's college games.

"It's pretty cool that they do this," Ryan Butler said, referring to the bus trip from Greensburg. "I remember two years ago when they did it. It was awesome, and it was a great time for them. My dad loves his friends, and he loves it when they come to watch us play. He really enjoys that."

Ryan Butler said that while he never had an opportunity to see his dad play competitively, he's heard a lot about him.

"I always hear from people saying how hard he played," Ryan Butler said. "Finally, we came across a DVD of him playing against Maryland.

"He did play hard."

Ryan Butler's cousin Jake, Jerry's son, played for Greensburg Salem's PIAA championship finalist last season, and Ryan recalled attending a game there several years ago.

"But I never did get to see Jake play," Ryan Butler said, "because he wasn't old enough to play for the high school team when I was there."

Richmond coach Chris Mooney, who first recruited Ryan Butler when Mooney was coach of Air Force, singled out Butler when discussing the Spiders' success this season. Among Richmond's victories thus far is a 56-53 win over then-No. 13 Florida on Dec. 19 at the Orange Bowl Classic in Miami.

"We're very pleased with where we are," Mooney said of the 11-4 Spiders, coming off a 59-50 victory at Bucknell on Saturday that followed a 74-68 overtime loss at Wake Forest two days prior. "We've competed in every game. I think we're in a good position going into the conference ... Ryan has been consistently good throughout."

Scouting the game

Richmond (11-4, 0-0) at Duquesne (9-5, 0-0)

When/where: 7 p.m. Wednesday/Palumbo Center

Radio: KQV-AM (1410)

Favorite: Richmond by 2.5

Series record: Richmond leads, 12-8

Outlook: Duquesne guard/forward Melquan Bolding, who has missed 13 games with a broken wrist, took part in his first full workout with the Dukes on Tuesday, but his status for tonight's game was uncertain. Bolding, a member of the all-A-10 rookie team last season, was Duquesne's third-leading returning scorer (9.9 ppg.) this year. He was instrumental in the Dukes' run to the A-10 Tournament championship game last season, averaging 14.0 points in four tournament games and becoming just the 10th freshman in league history to earn a spot on the all-tournament team. ... Duquesne has never beaten Richmond since the Spiders joined the Atlantic 10 Conference from the Colonial Athletic Association in 2001. The Dukes are 0-12 against Richmond during that time, with six of the outcomes being decided by four points or fewer.

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