Just over a month after the first round of the Bank of America Capital City Classic, which saw the VCU Rams outlast offensive explosions from Cedrick Lindsay and Kendall Anthony, Thursday night’s rematch at the Robins Center lived up to the billing that this rivalry has garnered over the past several seasons.
Kendall Anthony walked the ball up the floor with just 28 seconds remaining, down 52-50 to the Rams of VCU (23-7, 11-4), with a chance to tie or even win the ballgame. Despite the Spiders’ (18-12, 8-7) shooting woes in the second half (3-22 over the last fourteen minutes of the game), Anthony—Richmond’s go-to guy since Cedrick Lindsay was sidelined with knee injuries in February—put a runner up off the glass that glanced just off the front of the rim. Fortunately for the Spiders, there was no one there to block out 6-9 center Alonzo Nelson-Ododa. “Zo” had the lane, went up for the tip-in, and the ball sat on the rim for at least a second. It may have been the longest second of the Spiders’ up-and-down season. But the ball didn’t go in. Richmond would have to foul VCU with six seconds left, down two, and send Treveon Graham (18 PTS, 10 REBS, 4 ASTS) to the line for the one-and-one situation. Graham hit both to seal the game and give Shaka Smart his first ever win in the Robins Center as VCU’s head coach, 56-50.
The first half was filled with high intensity defense on both sides, so much so that the Rams and Spiders combined for nineteen total turnovers throughout the first twenty minutes. The key to Richmond’s 26-22 halftime lead was holding the Rams to just three 3-pointers, none of which came until there were six minutes remaining in the half.
VCU sped out of the locker room with more energy and focus than the Spiders, scoring on their first possession of the half and forcing Richmond to turn the ball over on theirs. Within the first thirty seconds, the Spiders were on their heels and VCU seemed to have stolen the momentum. Richmond would settle down, helped by the Rams’ scoring drought to begin the half (2-12 until the 13:29 mark), and lead by as much as eleven points with 13:34 left in the game. Terry Allen (8 PTS, 10 REBS, 2 ASTS) and Kendall Anthony (20 PTS, 6-18 FG, 3-8 3FG) provided the offensive spark and balance for the Spiders to build their biggest lead of the night. After going scoreless in the first half, Allen scored eight of Richmond’s first eleven points in the second half, while Anthony added six of his own early on.
But then came an awful scoring drought for the Spiders, connecting on just two field goals over the final ten minutes of regulation and falling behind despite their best efforts to keep pace with the Rams. Scoring droughts are bad enough, but when coupled with VCU’s hot outside shooting in the second half and transition scoring off of Richmond’s missed shots and turnovers, the Spiders had a recipe for an exhausted meltdown at the hands of a faster, more energized team.
Thursday night’s loss for the Spiders was really a microcosm of their Atlantic 10 conference season—flashes of a really good team with balanced scoring and defensive intensity, but laced with inconsistency when the opposite is what’s needed. Yet, these same Spiders had a chance to win the game against a surging VCU squad on their home floor, in front of one of the noisiest crowds the Robins Center has ever hosted. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t roll your way. But there’s still one regular season game left and a trip to Brooklyn for the A-10 tournament next weekend. Let’s see what these Spiders might still have up their sleeves.
As he has done for the past month, Kendall Anthony all but carried the Spiders throughout the game Thursday night. Following what was the worst shooting night of his collegiate career against Rhode Island last Saturday, Anthony managed to get back on track with a 20-point effort against top rival, VCU. It wasn’t quite his offensive explosion against the Rams from their first meeting back in February, but it was an outing worthy of top performer.
The Richmond Spiders will round out their regular season with a trip to Dayton, Ohio to take on the Flyers Saturday at 7:00 PM before heading to Brooklyn next weekend for the A-10 Tournament. Richmond won the first matchup between the two teams, 73-64, back on January 18th before handling then #13 UMASS just four nights later. You can follow Saturday’s action locally on ESPN 950.