For the 90th time in history, the VCU Rams and Richmond Spiders faced off in the Capital City Classic rivalry on Friday night.
For the 58th time, the team from downtown walked away victorious.
The VCU Rams (15-5, 6-1 Atlantic 10) continued their hot streak at the Robins Center in the Richmond suburbs, sealing a 74-62 win over the Richmond Spiders (11-9, 4-3 A-10) on the strength of a dominant second half.
The game, a Friday night A-10 showcase on ESPN2, began as a nip-and-tuck affair, with the crosstown rivals swapping the lead six times in the first nine minutes of the game. Once VCU pulled ahead at the 11:30 mark of the first half, the Rams led for the duration of the game.
VCU was led by a strong defensive performance, which gave the Rams multiple double-digit runs. After Richmond trimmed the lead to four points in the second half, VCU went on a 15-0 run over two-and-a-half-minutes of game time to effectively seal the victory.
The run coincided with a cold streak from the floor for the Spiders. After forward Isaiah Bigelow slammed home a dunk with 10:25 to play and trimmed the VCU lead to 51-46, the Spiders did not make another field goal until the final minute of the game – a drought of nearly 10 minutes. Richmond ended the game on a 9-0 run courtesy of a pair of quick 3-pointers, but the game was long decided by that point.
VCU was led offensively by Jamir Watkins, who recorded a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double off the bench. The double-double is the third of Watkins’ career and his second of the 2022-23 season.
The Rams were further helped by their starting backcourt – Ace Baldwin and Jayden Nunn – who combined for five steals. Baldwin stuffed the stat sheet, providing 14 points, four rebounds and a team-high five assists in the winning effort.
Nunn’s 11 points represented one of five double-digit scoring efforts for VCU. Aside from Watkins and Baldwin, graduate transfers Brandon Johns Jr. and David Shriver scored 12 and 10 points respectively.
The Spiders were led by senior guard Tyler Burton, who scored 14 points and secured five rebounds. The Massachusetts native made history Friday night by scoring his 1,386th point, moving Burton to 25th on Richmond’s career scoring list.
With his 7th point tonight, Tyler Burton (1,386) passed former teammate Nathan Cayo to move into 25th place on Richmond's career scoring list. #OneRichmond pic.twitter.com/kYJkPsaRKB
— Richmond Basketball (@SpiderMBB) January 21, 2023
But the night belonged to the Rams, who held a double-digit lead for most of the final 10 minutes of the game, ballooning to as many as 21 points.
The win proved crucial for a surging VCU team, which has now won 10 of its last 11 games. At 6-1, the Rams hold sole possession of first place in the A-10 heading into Saturday’s slate of games.
Friday night also solidified VCU’s standing in the Capital City Classic. With 58 wins against Richmond, VCU has more wins against the Spiders than any other opponent in program history.
Additionally, under head coach Mike Rhoades, VCU is 7-4 against Richmond. Rhoades lost his first two matchups against the Spiders in 2018, but has gone 7-2 since, with losses in the 2020 regular season and the 2022 A-10 Tournament the only blemishes.
With a win, Richmond had the potential to move to third place in the A-10. Instead, the loss drops Richmond to sixth place, with a full slate of conference games on tap Saturday.
Despite the tough loss, fans in attendance at the Robins Center had one reason to cheer late. VCU freshman Christian Fermin missed a pair of free throws, meaning all fans in the arena won free tacos.
Loudest cheer of the night: all fans acquiring the privilege of free tacos. pic.twitter.com/Mo0gsPRoOR
— Adam Cheek (@adamncheek) January 21, 2023
VCU’s next game will be another intrastate rivalry game – at home against George Mason on Wednesday night.
Richmond will look to rebound on Wednesday night on the road against Massachusetts – the first of two road games for the Spiders.
Richmond and VCU will meet at the Siegel Center on Feb. 24 for the 91st edition of the Capital City Classic. VCU has not lost to Richmond on its home floor since 2018 – the first time Rhoades faced Richmond as VCU’s head coach.