Freshman guard/forward Bradford Burgess (a Benedictine product) has a knack for hitting big shots late in the game Virginia Commonwealth University head coach Anthony Grant heaped praise on the James Madison University men’s basketball team in his opening post-game remarks in the media room. Grant also spoke well of the Dukes’ likable new head coach Matt […]
Freshman guard/forward Bradford Burgess (a Benedictine product) has a knack for hitting big shots late in the game
Virginia Commonwealth University head coach Anthony Grant heaped praise on the James Madison University men’s basketball team in his opening post-game remarks in the media room. Grant also spoke well of the Dukes’ likable new head coach Matt Brady. Then, after Grant and three of his players answered a number of questions about the game they’d just won, in the final question a reporter asked Grant about JMU’s improvement.
“They’re going to be a team to be reckoned with,” Grant said with a knowing look and a swallowed chuckle.
On Wednesday at the Siegel Center visiting JMU was indeed a team to be reckoned with. The determined Dukes lost in overtime, but there’s no way the victorious Rams can feel cocky about facing the purple and gold Dukes again in two weeks. Before a crowd of 6,913, VCU dodged a bullet and lived to tell the story: VCU 76, JMU 71 (OT).
VCU’s win combined with Northeastern’s loss to Drexel gives them identical records in the Colonial Athletic Association. Should they finish the season still knotted, Northeastern (16-8, 11-3 in CAA) holds the tie-breaker, having defeated VCU (18-7, 11-3 in CAA) in the only regular season game they will play this year. They both have just four conference games remaining on their schedules.
The last second of regulation time ticked off the clock with the score even at 62 apiece. Then, the Rams star guard, Eric Maynor, who’d had a so-so evening — he missed his first six three-point attempts — took over the floor. In the five minute overtime the Rams scored 14 points. Maynor got six and dished for the other eight.
The dagger to JMU’s heart was delivered by freshman Bradford Burgess, who sank a trey with 22 seconds left in OT. It pushed the lead to four points and made it a two-possession game.
The double-teamed Maynor threw a perfectly timed pass to Burgess to put the dagger in his hand. Asked how he felt as he launched the crucial three-point shot, Burgess said modestly, “It was just an open shot and I had to take it.”
Oh yes, it was the same Maynor who hit the two free throws to tie the score, at the end of regulation time. Maynor, a 6-3 senior, finished the night with 22 points, to lead all scorers. He added nine assists and four rebounds.
VCU sophomore Brandon Rozzell scored 13 points off the bench. Sophomore Larry Sanders scored eight points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
JMU freshman Julius Wells paced the Dukes offense with 20 points. He added 11 rebounds. Wells looks like a future star in the Colonial, maybe the near future.
Coach Brady said, “There were a lot of terrific defensive plays out there … Eric Maynor made a lot of big shots.” He added he’s glad Maynor is graduating after this semester.
When Maynor was asked to remember how it was for him to hit big shots as a freshman, as Burgess has done a few times already this season, Maynor had an interesting answer. The CAA’s returning Player of the Year explained that he had more trouble adjusting to college basketball, as a freshman, than Burgess has had.
So, Maynor didn’t really hit many big shots then. He pointed out that Burgess came to VCU ready to start as a freshman, while he actually did not. Maynor, the leader, was both quick to praise his young teammate and faithful to the truth. It played well.
Moreover, this was an entertaining game. There were 18 lead changes; 14 times the score was tied. It was hard to see how the Dukes could stay with the Rams, but they did. And, they did it with the man who’s supposed to be their best player, Juwann James, unavailable for action. The rematch will take place up in Harrisonburg on Feb. 25.
In the meantime, VCU will travel to Norfolk on Saturday to face the Monarchs of Old Dominon (15-9, 8-6 in CAA) at 2 p.m.
– Words and photo by F.T. Rea