The Rams beat George Mason 76-71 in front of a sold-out (and blacked-out) crowd.
VCU brought a 6 game winning streak to the Siegel center and put in on the line in front of a sell-out crowd and against rival and partner atop the CAA standings George Mason. Here’s how that worked out…
VCU got off to a fast start with Larry Sanders, who has four double doubles in his last eight outings, putting in five points in the first four minutes (at that rate he would have scored 50 points in the game). In what would become a game-long theme Mason charged back and with the aid of questionable (from my seat) refereeing, Eric Maynor taking a rest on the bench and their own scrappy play Mason took the lead midway through the half. Maynor re-entered the game, forced immediate points off the fast break and lead the daunted VCU press in coercing a handful of turnovers from Mason in the minutes following his return. Following a Larry Sanders technical for unnecessary chippiness, Maynor scored another bucket and fed K.P the Russian with a beautiful pass for 2 more, less beautiful than the pass but certainly pragmatic, points. Despite not scoring in the first thirteen minutes, Maynor ended the half with 12 points and 4 assists, the second of which broke the all time assist mark for a VCU player, and lead the Rams to a 7 point advantage entering the half.
Like the first, the second half began with VCU again getting points on the board quickly and at a greater rate than their foe. Lead by a beautiful J-O-E-Y-R-O-D-R-I-G-U-E-Z assist to K.P. the Russian, VCU scored 9 points in the first 2 minutes of the half. In a series of plays that summed up the first ten minutes of the half J-O-E-Y-R-O-D-R-I-G-U-E-Z hit a 3, followed by a steal and an Eric Maynor alley-oop to Sanders and THEN the defense forced a 10 second call and THEEEEN Bradford Burgess got a bucket and the foul….an “and 1” as they say. Despite what could have been a several knockout blows, a wild crowd, and a 15 point deficit Mason chipped away and was within one with 4:12 remaining. Following a timeout Maynor hit a 3 off a screen that showcased not only his knack for clutch shooting (Duke, etc.) but Mason’s inability to shut him down when it counted most. At the 2:50 mark Burgess added another clutch 3, and with 1:13 to play Maynor put in another “and 1”. Despite what would seem a rush of clutch shooting with 30 seconds left VCU held a five point lead with Mason on the free throw line. Mason missed what they needed to miss and the clock ran out with the Rams on top 76-71.
Sanders low-post moves seem to feature less fall-aways from the 4-5 foot range and a more aggressive and an “I’m going to get to the rim, you inferior a-holes” attitude in the 2-3 foot range. There has also been some sort of mind trick where Larry thinks he can reach the rim and dunk from anywhere in the paint….fortunately for us (and him) this is almost true.
Despite my pre-game promise that Ed Nixon was going to be the x-factor today his line read…0 rebounds 0 assists 2 points 1 steal. I’m not going to say he wasn’t the x-factor because 2 points means a lot in a game like this but I’ll just say this, if he was planning on being the player that I prophesied he had a funny way of showing it.
The George Mason program still has the 2006 final four logo front and center…seriously, 2006 is three years ago!! Our involvement in the European sector of World War II lasted that long.
K.P the Russian has begun sporting a head band…with a twist ,…literally he turns the headband so the Nike logo is on the back. If his name weren’t Kirill Pishchalnikov I would have thought he was raised in Indiana with that head band.
I will take my hat off, figuratively, to the fans yesterday. A student imposed, via facebook, “blackout” brought Mason to its knees!!!!
A word of advice to the VCU athletics administration. I think the “away” section is entirely too close to the court. I advise, and this advice isn’t entirely my own but it has my support, that the “away” section be the top row of seats surrounding the court…maybe every other seat in the top row surrounding the court.
The Mason uniforms have a sweet typeface but an ugly cut.
At some points in the game the infamous pep band leader was sporting some sort of black w/ gold trim robe? Sort of like a boxer or pro wrestler? Anyhow, it was amazing and I highly suggest he wears that all the time.
In what was a personal highlight of the game, Larry Sanders, saddled with foul difficulties, was up off the bench yelling and screaming in support…just like the rest of us. Larry and I have turned a corner in our relationship.