5th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth University finished with a 15-7 run to get revenge against 4th-seeded Richmond 70-67 Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
With 1:38 remaining, Doug Brooks swished a 3-pointer to give VCU a 62-60 lead. Minutes earlier, VCU trailed by eight points, but the Rams had captured the momentum and the Spiders, who were 2-0 against VCU this season, were on the ropes. Richmond responded with a crisp T.J. Cline layup but Doug Brooks immediately found Mo Alie-Cox for a timely and-1.
After the events that led to the Rams’ double-overtime loss to Richmond on 2/25 and the dominance of Kendall Anthony who finished with 26 points (10-14 2PFG, 2-2 3PFG), 6 assists, and 4 steals, the 65-62 lead felt flimsy. On the next play, Anthony drew a foul and the lead almost felt like a deficit. But Anthony missed the front end of the one-and-one. On the next possession he slipped in transition and turned over the ball.
After 39 almost flawless minutes (he played all 40), Anthony finally made a game-changing mistake. He finished the season with 61 points, 19 assists, and 8 steals in three games against VCU. Richmond would score five points on their final two possessions but perfect free-throw shooting from Melvin Johnson iced the game.
Johnson finished with 23 points and 3 steals. JeQuan Lewis added 10 points and 3 assists but had four turnovers and 4 fouls. VCU finished 10-of-21 from 3-point range and 16-of-19 on free-throws. Richmond finished 0-of-5 on free-throws.
Shake it Off
Friday’s win saw the return of Aggressive, Confident, Loose (ACL) basketball for VCU and the Rams’ showed essential resilience in a back-and-forth battle.
On Thursday, Coach Smart said, “we’re going to shake it, it’s just a matter of when.” On Friday the Rams appeared to shake it as they shot above .400 for the first time in six games. VCU started 1-of-12 from the field but Jordan Burgess, a player whose strong start to the season disappeared into a bottomless slump, hit a confident 3-pointer from the corner.
Melvin Johnson, who was 4-of-7 from 3-point range against Fordham, then reeled off 5-of-6 3-pointers and Doug Brooks, who was 0-of-6 from 3-point range since joining the starting lineup, hit 3-of-5 3-pointers. Seeing the shots go in seemed to fuel the confidence of the Rams. For the first times in weeks, VCU looked like VCU and the joy of watching the Rams was tangible.
The Rams showed distantly familiar poise that inspires confidence. VCU weathered 8-0 and 8-1 runs. At times, Richmond looked more like VCU than VCU. The Spiders forced four consecutive VCU turnovers during one spurt and were dominant in transition while VCU found few opportunities in transition. Finally Richmond, a team that makes no effort to get offensive rebounds, earned their fair share of second-chance points.
Through all of the ups-and-downs, role reversals, and insane Kendall Anthony plays, VCU remained poised and triumphed when it mattered more than usual.
Top performer: Melvin Johnson
23 points (2-5 2PFG, 5-9 3PFG), 1 assist, 3 steals, 0 turnovers
Johnson went 5-of-6 from 3-point range in the first half with all 15 of his points coming in the final 9:51. His shot cooled off in the second half but he went a perfect 4-of-4 from the free-throw line in the final 14 seconds to ice the game.
- Junior Melvin Johnson is 3 points away from becoming VCU’s 35th 1,000 point scorer. Follow all records on the Record Watch page.
- VCU finished 10-of-21 (.476) from 3-point range. They finished 6-of-39 (.154) from range in the first two meetings.
- VCU had 10 turnovers at halftime. They forfeited the ball just three times in the second half.
- Richmond shot .574 from 2-point range, .500 from 3-point range, and .000 from the free-throw line.
- VCU and Richmond combined for 4 points on 2-of-12 shooting in the first 4:44. Over the next 15:16, they combined for 65 points on 27-of-39 shooting.
VCU will face top-seeded Davidson on Saturday at 1:30 PM on CBS Sports Network. The Wildcats beat the Rams 82-55 on March 7th.
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