Sometimes sheer athleticism is enough to win a basketball game. Sometimes it is not. Monday night at the Siegel Center VCU’s superior athleticism failed to deliver against the visiting Northeastern University Huskies, as the Rams fell 62-57.
Sometimes sheer athleticism is enough to win a basketball game. Sometimes it is not. Monday night at the Siegel Center VCU’s superior athleticism failed to deliver against the visiting Northeastern University Huskies, as the Rams fell 62-57. The loss snaps a four game win streak and drops VCU to 1-2 in CAA conference play and 9-3 overall.
The game was a hard fought affair undecided until the final minutes. Northeastern clung to slim four point lead for much of the second half, but the Rams cut the margin to two on a Bradford Burgess layup with a 1:30 left. After a Northeastern turnover on their ensuing possession, VCU had a chance to tie or take the lead. With the Siegel Center rocking in anticipation, VCU’s star forward Larry Sanders lowered his shoulder on a move to the basket and was tagged with an offensive foul. Converted Northeastern free throws would seal VCU’s first home defeat on the year (and first defeat in Richmond since the Huskies beat them last January).
For flashes the VCU press and slashing offense attack controlled the game, but on the whole it was the Huskies dogged attack (led by junior point guard Chaisson Allen) that determined pace. Huskie (and somewhat husky) forward Manny Adako was simply dominant, gaining low position and converting short-range jumpers almost at will. He outplayed Sanders and ended with a game-high 23 points, on, remarkably, 11-14 shooting (that’s 79% from the floor for those of you who aren’t Rainman).
On the other end of the court, Adako used his strength to negate Sanders’ freakish athleticism, forcing the potential NBA lottery pick into poor shot selection. Sanders ended the night tied (with guard Joey Rodriguez) for a team-high 12 points. But those points came on 6-16 shooting and seldom were the result of VCU’s half-court set. Sanders credited the Northeastern defense in walling him off and forcing him away from the basket. It remains unclear who he credits for his ill-advised three-point attempts (0 for 2) and circus fade-away jumpers.
Conventional basketball wisdom says that the team who controls the first few minutes and the last minutes of each half wins. On this night, Northeastern controlled those moments. The Huskies scored the first 7 points of the game forcing Coach Shaka Smart to burn a quick time-out. The Rams–undoubtedly shocked out of their lethargy–responded with a 21-4 run which put them up 21-11 halfway through the first half. That would be their largest lead of the night. And just as they had at the beginning of the half, Northeastern controlled the last five minutes, trimming the VCU lead to 28-25 at the break.
An Allen three-pointer early in the second half tied the game.
The rest of the half seesawed back and forth with the Huskies extending their lead to eight at one point. VCU’s man-to-man pressure generated turnovers, but defensive energy did not translate into offense. Instead the Rams were forced to rely on jump shots. As Coach Smart summarized, “We did not do a good job attacking the basket.” A meager four free throw attempted on the night for the Rams (compared to thirteen for the Huskies) proves that Northeastern was the more aggressive team. Team leaders Adako and Allen (who finished with 17 points and 7 assists) had an answer for every potential VCU run .
Say all you want about an early season defeat refocusing a team or giving it something to build on. Neither coach nor players from VCU were looking for a silver lining after this home loss. He may not have said it in words, but you could read Shaka’s thoughts on his face: “This one smarts.”
VCU is back in action Wednesday night playing at Drexel. The Rams return to the Siegel Center on Saturday for a 2 PM tilt against Delaware.