What I liked: Richmond wasn’t scared. This was their turn to show the city there’s more than just one basketball team in the capital and they delivered. It was clear from the start they weren’t threatened by “Havoc” and kept up with the Rams fast-paced style of play for the majority of the game. Neither team led by more than four points for the first 12 minutes of the game.
What set the Spiders apart from the Rams was their ability to get open quickly when needed and drain a three. It seemed whenever the momentum was in VCU’s favor, Richmond would sink a well-timed shot from behind the arc.
This game boasted two of the most threatening three-point shooters in the country and the two best three-point shooting teams in the A-10, and while VCU’s Troy Daniels was only able to come up with one basket, Richmond’s Darien Brothers, who ranks 12th nationally, knocked down four. Not his strongest performance from behind the arc, but notable when compared to Daniels. Richmond ended up shooting 44 percent compared to VCU’s surprisingly low 17%.
And while we’re on the topic of 3-point shots…Spider fans will be watching YouTube videos of Brothers’ 28-foot three-pointer with 1.5 seconds left for days to come. Despite VCU’s well-timed comeback giving them a seven-point lead in the final minute, they made a major mistake leaving Brothers’ open from behind the arc. The memorable shot was set up by sophomore guard Kendall Anthony who had an incredible game in his own right, scoring 21 of his 26 points after halftime.
Also worth noting was the impressive performance by Richmond’s bench. Much is noted about VCU’s deep bench and seemingly endless rotation of substitutions, but it was the Spiders who capitalized and scored 35 of their points from off the bench players compared to VCU’s 15.
But let’s not discredit VCU. While most media was anticipating a stronger showing from the nationally-ranked (but probably not for much longer) squad, they didn’t give up. True to their second-half form, they snagged turnover after turnover and crawled back to a lead after trailing for much of the first half.
Junior forward Juvonte Reddic would’ve had a monster game till some ticky-tacky fouls got him in trouble in the first half. Despite the fouls, the junior led the team in points (20), and posted his fifth double-double of the year. He had six all of last year.
It was also refreshing to see freshman Melvin Johnson keeping the Rams close with nine points in the final five minutes of the half. It was certainly a promising showing from the Bronx, NY native.
What I didn’t like: VCU’s sloppy play early on. Senior guard Darius Theus, who just had his career-best performance in the Rams’ overtime win against St Joseph’s, had little impact as the Rams’ floor general. Theus, who normally has a knack for controlling the pace and calming his team down, made some questionable passes and couldn’t seem to find his rhythm at the start. With many tough conference games ahead, VCU needs their leader to lock it up.
I can’t pinpoint if VCU was overconfident riding a 13-game winning streak or just genuinely surprised at the way Richmond started so hot, but the Rams definitely did not perform at their usual level. While I had every expectation of a close game, I anticipated Richmond rising to VCU’s fast-paced offense, not VCU forcing shots and allowing 13 turnovers.
On a side note…I REALLY didn’t like the student halftime karaoke display. Your inner-city rival comes to your house and you can’t put on a little pomp and circumstance for a sold out crowd at halftime? Come on, Richmond. I would’ve gone to a dive bar if I wanted to hear Aerosmith sung in the wrong key.
Moment of the game: When VCU’s head coach Shaka Smart elected not to foul in the last 12 seconds of the game which led to Richmond sinking the shot to send the game into overtime.
“Obviously, in retrospect, we should have fouled,” he said in an article from the Associated Press.
While there’s no guarantee this could’ve sealed the game for VCU, the odds were ever in their favor. (Pardon the super lame Hunger Games reference…couldn’t resist.)
Fan moment of the game: When CBS panned to Smart firing up his squad on the sidelines after they took a late second-half lead. The 35-year-old head coach is notorious for moving up and down the sidelines with his team showing just as much energy as his players do, but this time it looked like he was about to jump on the floor himself.
Player of the Game: Kendall Anthony. His impact in the second half helped keep the Spiders in the game when it looked like Havoc might get the best of them. While Brothers’ will be remembered as the hero for sinking the shot to send the game into overtime, Anthony was the glue.
What this means: The giants of the A-10 have all fallen and no team is undefeated in the conference any longer. This is shaping up to be one of the most competitive conferences in the nation. No.9 Butler lost a shocker to La Salle on Wednesday and Xavier fell to Charlotte on the same night. Charlotte, VCU and Xavier all sit atop the A-10 in a tie with four wins and one loss a piece with Butler right on their heels at 3-1, 16-3 overall.
What’s next: VCU will host La Salle this Saturday (Ram Nation should be nervous about this one. They took down Butler, arguably the best team in the A-10.), and Richmond travels to play Massachusetts.
Closing thought: Richmond has officially turned into a real-life West Side Story. If both teams stay in the Atlantic 10 for the long haul, this could end up being a classic basketball rivalry. The highly anticipated rematch will take place on March 6th at the Siegel Center.