Virginia Commonwealth University topped Fordham 63-57 Thursday afternoon to advance to the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
Fordham played a gutsy and inspired game and surprisingly led VCU 52-51 with 4 minutes remaining in the game, but VCU responded, survived, and advanced. The run started with Mo Alie-Cox punishing the rim with an emphatic dunk. Seconds later freshman Jonathan Williams hit a midrange jumper. On the next play, Mo Alie-Cox blocked a shot which VCU converted into a Melvin Johnson transition 3-pointer. The Rams would ultimately end the game on a 19-8 run to seal the victory.
Treveon Graham was the leader with 22 points and 9 rebounders. Melvin Johnson, just miles from his home in the Bronx, finished with 16 points and 6 rebounds. He finished 4-of-7 from 3-point range and is 7-of-13 over the last two games. Brooklyn native Terry Larrier added 10 points but was 1-of-11 from the field.
Fordham finished 10-of-21 from 3-point range. Manny Suarez, who averages 1.2 PPG, finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds. He entered Thursday 4-of-24 from 3-point range. He finished 3-of-4 from range. Jon Severe, who has been limited all season, finished with 14 points. Fordham was without Rookie of the Year Eric Paschall.
Just weeks ago, Coach Tom Pecora was on the hot seat after an embarrassing 0-9 start. He’s still 44-106 after five seasons in Brooklyn, but for the first time in a long time Fordham looks to be on the upswing. Thursday, their on-paper potential turned into reality for 36 minutes of sweat-inducing basketball for VCU.
With 2015 Rookie of the Year Eric Paschall on the bench, 2014 Co-Rookie of the Year Jon Severe finished his up-and-down season with a bang. A former New York Mr. Basketball, he’s tough to defend when he gets going downhill and he hit a couple of big-time 3-pointers despite noble attempts by VCU to defend him.
Fordham is turning into the second best turnover forcing team in the league. Mandell Thomas finished the season with 71 steals – second to Briante Weber. The Rams play more man-to-man than in seasons past, but their 2-3 zone flustered VCU. JeQuan Lewis was a non-factor and he finished with 4 turnovers. Jordan Burgess wasn’t much more helpful and he finished with 3 turnovers.
Not only was Fordham good at creating opportunities in transition, but they were effective at capitalizing. Off of rebounds and turnovers, they pushed the ball faster than VCU could respond before hitting easy layups and uncontested 3-pointers. Fordham is far from being a contender, but the Rams are poised to make a significant leap in 2015-16. With a win over George Mason and a competitive loss to VCU, Fordham put everyone on notice a little early.
Top performer: Treveon Graham
22 Points (7-13 2PFG, 2-7 3PFG, 2-4 FT), 9 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 0 Turnovers
There’s simultaneously everything and not much to say. Graham is the man. Despite being noticeably affected by his high ankle sprain, he’s playing aggressive, confident, and loose basketball precisely when the Rams need it more than ever.
- After turning the ball over 8 times in the first half, VCU turned the ball over just 3 times in the second half.
- Terry Larrier is 7-of-46 (.152) from 3-point range since VCU’s skid started on 1/31.
- Since joining the starting lineup three games ago, Doug Brooks is 2-of-6 from 2-point range and 0-of-6 from 3-point range.
- VCU shot .294 from 2-point range but still managed to score 1.02 points per possession. They rebounded 44.4% of their misses.
- Treveon Graham finished with 22 points. The other four starters combined for eleven points.
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