It hasn’t been pretty for the preseason and current No.1 as of late, but at the end of the day, VCU remains a flawless 6-0 in Atlantic 10 play.
The Rams brought a five-game winning streak into the start of conference play and made somewhat easy work of their first three A-10 opponents. But after that, VCU packed their bags for a three-game road tour where they would bend but never break and are now a league-best 4-0 in conference road games.
The black and gold found themselves down early and often against the Keaney Blue’s of Rhode Island, trailing by nine points with just over nine minutes to play. Graham battled VCU back on a bum ankle, scoring 16 of his 26 points in the second half to rally the black and gold Rams to victory, avoiding their biggest A-10 scare of the season.
VCU went Graham-less the following game as their senior leader sat due to the ankle injury suffered against Rhode Island, and after jumping out to a double-digit halftime lead saw Duquesne scratch their way back into the game, cutting the Rams lead to two before a Melvin Johnson three with under a minute to play provided VCU the buffer they needed to grab the win.
Graham returned for the last of the three-game road adventure, and not a minute to soon, as VCU once again found themselves in trouble, this time to a rebuilding SLU squad.
The teams battled all first half, exchanging leads before heading into the locker rooms tied at 34.
VCU then led most of the second half until SLU’s Austin McBroom rose up to connect on a foul line jumper to give the Bills a 2-point lead with just 39 seconds to play.
The Rams’ Jordan Burgess answered by hitting his only shot of the game, a corner three-pointer to give VCU a one-point lead with 19.6 ticks left on the clock.
Villanova transfer, Ash Yacoubou, missed the first of two free throws before connecting on his second to tie the game. After that it was all Graham as VCU’s Freight Train took the ball coast-to-coast to score the game-winner in a very Jordair Jett fashion before the 9,643 in attendance at Chaifetz Friday night.
The Rams once again survived a close one, and to their second consecutive struggling A-10 squad (SLU and Duquesne are a combined 2-10 in conference play and one of those wins was against each other).
VCU has proven tough as nails but has appeared very vulnerable in their three latest wins. The Rams look like a big horn that has survived three straight epic clashes on a snowy mountainside (slow motion stuff).
Do they have what it takes to remain king of the mountain? Or is there a challenger just around the corner who is ready to hand VCU their first A-10 defeat?