Spiders Top Rams 67-63 in 2 OT, help send A10 into 4-way tie for 1st

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of “Are you serious?”, it was the age of “You can’t be serious!”  Some of that sentence I read somewhere, and some of that sentence I said in an extremely loud voice this evening at the Robins Center.

Richmond defeated VCU 67-63 in a 2OT tonight in a game that was nothing short of complete insanity.  It definitely wasn’t the prettiest of games and it won’t be remembered for any fantastic shooting or fluid offense but this game was special nonetheless.

It was special because guys like TJ Cline, Tre Graham, JeQuan Lewis, ShawnDré Jones, and Kendall Anthony made it special.  Big time shots, quick backdoor cuts, and heads-up plays are the memories that fans long to forget or beg to remember and these guys had a suitcase full of all of them this evening.

Richmond came out swinging right from the opening tip and put VCU in a tight spot by making most of its early shots.  The Spiders got great looks by feeding Cline in the post, low or high, and letting him either attack the smaller guard checking him or pass out of any double team quickly which created open looks for his teammates.  Cline was hot early as he hit a 3-pointer to start the scoring but his passing and unselfishness was really worth noting throughout the entire game.

The Spiders went on a 7-0 run to stretch their lead to 22-10 with 9:17 left to play in the half.  The Spiders used great ball movement to get good looks while VCU consistently settled for contested jumpers.  VCU battled with its defense to keep it close but ShawnDré Jones squashed any hopes the Rams had of catching up by knocking down timely jumpers on a consistent basis in the first half.

Jones ended up 6-10 from 3-point land and finished with 22 points.  He doubled VCU’s production from 3-point land for the evening single-handedly.

Richmond makes VCU uncomfortable.  It has nothing to do with tax brackets or sweater vests.  Richmond makes VCU uncomfortable by playing great team defense.  VCU averages almost 75 points a game.  VCU averaged 59 points against UR this season and shot 6-39 from 3-point range.

The poor percentage for VCU looks to come from difficult shot selection and timing.  Many times in these games between the Spiders and Rams, it was VCU players taking very difficult shots at inopportune times where the Spiders were getting nice looks in rhythm.

The Spiders switch ball screens all day but they realized in crucial situations tonight that doubling Tre Graham when he was making a move to the basket would be more likely to end in reward than a ill-timed risk.

VCU only had two players make more than two shots from the floor against Richmond; Graham and Je’Quan Lewis.

The rest of the team combined to go 8-23 from the floor.  I’m just saying that sending a double on Graham after he has picked up his dribble isn’t exactly long division at that point.

The game looked completely in the control of the Spiders when they had a 40-26 lead in the second half with 16:00 left to play but VCU remained tough and hung around to make things interesting.

The Spiders had 51-44 lead with 57 seconds left and the ball. Some missed free throws and missed shots by UR made for a very interesting final minute.

VCU was able to the Spiders lead to 6 points with under a minute to play and then Melvin Johnson’s 3-pointer got the Rams within three at 0:32 in regulation.

The Rams had an opportunity to tie things up after a steal got them the  ball back but Graham missed a 3-pointer and VCU was forced to foul Kendall Anthony and give him a couple of free throws to ice the game. Anthony, a 78% free throw shooter, missed both shots and left the door open for VCU to complete its comeback.

VCU got the ball to Graham and he proceeded to drill a 28-footer with 3 seconds left to tie the game. Jones had a last second heave from 30 feet that was agonizingly close to falling in but bounced to floor instead and we had free basketball at the Robins Center.

This game was bananas!  B-A-N-A-N-A-S!!!

The teams battled in OT and VCU took its first lead of the game on a furious put-back dunk by the Mo Alie-Cox. The Spiders had multiple looks to take the lead but couldn’t get anything to fall.

Melvin Johnson made 2 free throws to give VCU a 3-point and with 4 seconds left and UR’s Jones with the ball the Rams fouled. Jones made the first and then missed the 2nd on purpose. The Rams couldn’t get the rebound.

The same thing happened to VCU against La Salle.  A rebound wasn’t secured when the Rams absolutely had to have it.  Sometimes the ball takes funny bounces.  Sometimes guys just can’t “grab the dagum ball!”

Just like against La Salle, VCU was burned in the final seconds of the period and tonight Cline slipped passed Graham on an in-bounds play under the basket for a lay-up to tie the game at 58.

VCU was going to play its 3rd 2OT game of the year. “YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS!!!” Johnny Mac would have been proud.

The Spiders played strong defense and were aided by a couple of tight calls on the defensive end of the court to help them keep VCU from getting any points from the floor in the final minutes of the game.

Graham was called for an offensive foul on a play where he drove into the paint and got his shot to fall but collided with the Richmond defender who may or may not have established position.

The block/charge  play is tough for officials and has been called more inconsistently than ever this season.  I see fans, coaches, and players freaking out and going ballistic on officials and I have to agree with them.

The officials have butchered the call so many times and have been flat-out tricked by flopping that the call draws the ire of the masses far too often.

I’m not saying the refs missed the call on Graham because I can’t remember the last game where I saw the call consistently for 40 minutes.  It changes all the time and that is a shame.  The game deserves better.

Graham missed some more free throws in the second overtime but I think anyone who criticizes the senior forward, who played 45 minutes on a bum ankle, is crazy.  He did everything he could to get VCU a win tonight.  It just wasn’t in cards for the Rams.

After another sequence where Jones made 2 free throws and Graham hit one, Graham missed a second free throw and Jones tracked down the rebound. Richmond had a 65-63 lead and the ball with 9 seconds left to play.

The only problem for Richmond was that Jones was swarmed upon by Melvin Johnson and company and VCU forced a jump ball.  With the possession arrow pointing in the direction of the Rams, we had one more chance for the craziness to continue.

Graham took the ball from the top of the key and drove to the basket.  A whole bunch of contact took place as he went up to try and tie the game but Deion Taylor swooped in to block his shot and grab the ball all at the same time.

It was a great play by Taylor but it wasn’t without some controversy. I think it is fair to say that there was definitely some contact on the play and if a foul would have been called it wouldn’t have been unreasonable.  But the refs “swallowed their whistles” and that was that.

Taylor made a couple of meaningless free throws to stretch the final score to 67-63.

Shaka Smart had some words the officials as he went to shake hands.   Kids stormed the court. Lots of Spider fans screamed with joy as they exited the building, having swept the Rams for the first time in 14 years.

A whole bunch of media members went to soak their hands in ice water and scorn their Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.

It looks like the “Black and Blue Rivalry” will be stronger than ever heading into next season.  Both schools have some young players with a lot of ability and a flair for the dramatic.

If you are a fan of either school or just enjoy quality basketball, I think these games are going to be the ones you circle on your calendars.

Regardless of their team or investment in the outcome of the game, anybody who was at this game and stayed for the late game heroics won’t soon forget the best and worst of times at the Robins Center this evening.

Brian Keiper is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and has a M.Ed from University of Richmond. He teaches, coaches, and spends way too mu...