PITTSBURGH- As day 4 of the Atlantic 10 Tournament comes to a close, we recap the two semifinal games and look ahead to Sunday’s championship game, where Rhode Island will face VCU. Here’s how we got there.
Rhode Island Rams 84, Davidson Wildcats 60
A third game in three days proved too much for Davidson as Rhode Island rolled to a blowout victory over the Wildcats in the semifinals. The Rams were red-hot from deep, starting 9 of 12 from beyond the arc in the first half, while also bullying their opponents in the post with their superior bigs. E.C. Matthews was sensational, going for 19 points on 4-4 shooting from three and 5-5 from the free throw line. Forwards Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson complimented Matthews by dominating in the low post. URI was able to coast for the majority of the contest.
This game was crucial for Rhode Island as it puts them in position to seal their bid to the NCAA tournament in tomorrow’s A-10 championship game. As it stands, the Rams are about as bubble-y as a team could be as they sit as the first team out in Joe Lunardi’s bracketology rankings. While some believe they still could make it as an at-large, Dan Hurley’s team has the chance to eliminate all doubt and stamp their ticket to the Big Dance with a win. In the post game presser, Hurley promised that tomorrow the Rams would play as hard as any team in the country. With their backs against the walls, Rhode Island has already shown they are capable of coming up big.
As for Davidson, the illustrious career of Jack Gibbs appears to have come to an end. The URI game plan of pushing him away from the basket and doubling on him forced the ball out of his hands on many an occasion. Gibbs did finish with 17 points, but on 4-12 from the floor with 9 of his points coming from the free-throw line. This, of course, was following his electric 34 point performance against Dayton the day prior.
Bob McKillop reflected on Gibbs’ career after the game, calling him “a hall-of-famer” whose number will one day hang from the rafters of Belk Arena. Gibbs himself called the last four years the best part of his life. He leaves Davidson as the third-leading scorer all-time and certainly as a hero to be forever remembered and appreciated by the fan base. Jack’s presence on and off the court will sorely be missed.
VCU Rams 87, Richmond Spiders 77 (OT)
The Battle for Richmond (Part III) was a hard-fought contest throughout, but JeQuan Lewis’ three with 25 seconds remaining forced overtime, where VCU dominated and advanced to their 5th consecutive A-10 championship game. After the Lewis three, the Spiders had a chance to win in regulation but ShawnDre’ Jones missed a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer, sending the game into OT. Although A-10 Player of the Year T.J. Cline was limited to 10 points on 4-12 shooting, freshman DeMonte Buckingham stepped up huge for Richmond, going for a career-high 26 points on 4-7 from deep. It was the VCU interior though that determined the outcome of this game. The Rams scored 56 points in the paint and got huge games from Samir Doughty (17 pts, 6-10 FG) and Mo Alie-Cox (15 pts, 9 reb).
The Rams now prepare to face Rhode Island in the championship game, whom Will Wade called “the one team in the league that is as if not more physical” than VCU. This should be a hard-fought contest. While VCU may have already secured their case for an at-large bid, they will be looking to avenge their ten point loss to Rhode Island just a couple weeks ago.
Disregarding a possible NIT appearance, Richmond’s T.J. Cline and ShawnDre Jones leave the program having been one of the best duos in the conference. The two combined to average over 35 PPG this season, even though they were held to a combined 21 points in today’s game. Chris Mooney expressed his deep appreciation for the seniors while Buckingham told the media that Cline “would make a great coach one day”. Hopefully, these senior Spiders will get to play at least one final game in the Richmond uniform.