Eric Maynor releases a running floater that swishes to make for two of his 14 first-half points. Eric Maynor and Larry Sanders were nearly unstoppable in leading Virginia Commonwealth University to a runaway victory over George Mason at the Richmond Coliseum: VCU 71, Mason 50. In truth, the game really wasn’t as close as the score […]
Eric Maynor releases a running floater that swishes to make for two of his 14 first-half points.
Eric Maynor and Larry Sanders were nearly unstoppable in leading Virginia Commonwealth University to a runaway victory over George Mason at the Richmond Coliseum: VCU 71, Mason 50.
In truth, the game really wasn’t as close as the score might suggest. Before a sell-out crowd of 11,200 and a national television audience the No. 2 seeded Patriots were ripped to shreds at every turn, dominated by the No. 1 seeded Rams in every aspect of the game.
In the first few minutes of play in the Colonial Athletic Association’s tournament final, the Rams appeared better prepared and more intense than the Patriots. VCU never trailed in the score and led by 11 points at the half.
Maynor and company opened the second stanza with a devastating 13-1 four-minute run to completely deflate whatever notions the stunned Patriots might have had that they actually belonged on the same floor with Broad Street’s red hot Rams.
As good as the VCU Rams have looked at times during the 2008-09 season, before this tilt head coach Anthony Grant had not seen his young and talented team exhibit a killer instinct. The Rams hadn’t shown a knockout punch until now.
The John Larranaga-coached Patriots, ordinarily a tough and disciplined squad, simply had no answer for Maynor or Sanders. Mason had a No. 46 RPI prior to the game; VCU was No. 56.
In his last performance before a Richmond basketball crowd Eric Maynor turned in a memorable night’s work. The senior guard scored 25 points and earned eight assists. And why not? He holds the VCU all-time records for both points and assists.
However, stats don’t tell enough about how completely Maynor controlled this game, which happens to have been the most important of the season, so far. His confidence anywhere on the floor was abundantly obvious from the get-go; it spread like a virus to his teammates, as the rout developed.
Larry Sanders blocked seven shots and altered several more into bricks that clanged off the rim … if they hit the rim at all. The long-limbed Sanders grabbed 20 of VCU’s 39 rebounds. Mason had 32 boards. While he was at it, Sanders also poured in 18 points, eight of which came from emphatic dunks that fired up the VCU fans.
Freshman Bradford Burgess, who played with poise and scored eight points, contends with Cam Long’s leaping defense as he throws the ball in.
VCU converted on 49 percent of its shots from the field; Mason was held to 30 percent.
Larranaga must have been surprised to see his sturdy 22-10 outfit look so utterly helpless in a championship affair. Afterward, his trademark good sportsmanship and stoicism were in evidence, as the losing coach complimented the victors. “They’ve got a guy, Larry Sanders, who can eliminate a lot of easy buckets.”
Dre Smith scored 23 points to pace the Patriots offense. As some consolation, Smith was joined on the all-tournament team by his teammate Cam Long. Also named were Junior Hairston (Towson), Gerald Lee (ODU), Maynor and Sanders.
In what came as no surprise to anyone, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Award went to Maynor. Sanders, a sophomore, set new CAA records for rebounds in a single contest and for the entire tournament (40).
VCU (24-9) must wait until Sunday night to learn of its destination and assignment in the NCAA national championship tournament. Speculation among VCU fans will be easy to hear until then, no doubt, about how much respect the CAA champ ought to get when the Big Dance’s seeding brackets get filled in.
This feat marks Grant’s second CAA tournament championship in the three seasons he has guided the VCU program. The Rams have won the league’s regular season title all three years.
Happy Rams play with their various trophies on the court in front of their fans after the awards ceremony.
– Words and photos by F.T. Rea