Recap: VCU tops UR and sweeps the Commonwealth

Despite trailing by as many as 11 points in the second half, Virginia Commonwealth University topped the University of Richmond 56-50 late Thursday night in the newly renovated Robins Center.

Despite trailing by as many as 11 points in the second half, Virginia Commonwealth University topped the University of Richmond 56-50 late Thursday night in the newly renovated Robins Center.


Energized by the rivalry and a touching senior night presentation for the injured Cedrick Lindsay, Kendall Anthony scored 5 quick points setting the tone for Richmond. The Spiders outplayed the Rams the entire first half but only possessed a 26-22 lead heading into the locker room.

VCU was primed to respond after surviving the emotional surge but an early 9-0 Richmond run gave the Spiders a 35-24 lead. VCU responded with an 8-0 run and a flurry of 3-pointers from Treveon Graham, Jordan Burgess, Melvin Johnson, and Rob Brandenberg to take the lead.

The way VCU approaches games, they often play even with teams for 35 minutes and use one of those signature runs to make up the difference. When things click, it’s tangible. Those runs can be felt in the air. Over that stretch, VCU missed a few free-throws and turned the ball over a few times, but they went 7-of-8 from the field and 4-of-5 from 3-point range.

It’s amazing…When everything is clicking and we’re connected…it’s really hard to stop us. Treveon Graham

Midway through the second half Briante Weber picked up foul number four. Then after an incredible volume of good and bad plays, JeQuan Lewis picked up his fourth foul after an unlucky bounce of the basketball. The Rams responded.

In terms of wins and losses, VCU has underperformed preseason expectations, but they have played the most difficult road schedule in the conference and one of the most difficult schedules in the history of the program. Moving into the postseason, Coach Smart is confident, “we’re going to benefit from the lessons we’ve learned on the road both in victory and defeat.”

It was far from pretty but the Rams showed resolve. Rob Brandenberg played great second half defense on Kendall Anthony who finished with 20 points but ended up missing the rim more often than not in the second half, the Rams’ guards hit timely 3-pointers, and Treveon Graham showed he can get things done without Weber or Lewis on the court. These are all important lessons learned before hopping on the bus charter plane to Brooklyn.

History in the Making

Thursday was the first time Coach Smart ever won in the Robins Center, Briante Weber set the Atlantic 10 record for single-season steals at 109, and VCU became the first team in the history of the Commonwealth to beat UVA, Virginia Tech, GMU, ODU, and Richmond.

Nobody has ever won every game in a series between the six teams that probably would be thought of as the best teams in the state of Virginia. We don’t play for any type of state title, that’s not how things work, but nobody has ever done it. Whenever you have the chance to do something for the first time it means a lot.

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No one can argue this. These guys have done something that no one since basketball was first played in 1905 in the state of Virginia has ever done. Coach Smart

Top performer: Treveon Graham

35 minutes, 18 points (3-8 2PFG, 3-3 3PFG), 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 steal

During the player intros in the Stuart C. Siegel Center, Treveon Graham looks into the camera and with the utmost nonchalance imageable says, “I’m Treveon Graham and I basically play all of the positions.” He’s not kidding.

Graham can defend the 1 through 5, he can shoot from range and score at the rim, he’s a solid rebounder, and he can run the point. On top of that he has the most understated killer instinct. It’s the unnerving casualness of Clint Eastwood asking “do you feel lucky” meet the stat-sheet stuffing heroics of Reggie Miller-Eight Points-Nine Seconds.

Play-by-plays from all of the Rams’ closest games are littered with his name. More importantly the guy is tough as nails and he’s unbelievably consistent. Early in the game Graham went down and woozily walked to the bench. After a brief respite, he responded by going 3-of-3 from beyond the arc, stepping up and running the point, and grabbing the game deciding rebound before hitting two free-throws.

5 stats

  • VCU had 4 assists and 9 turnovers in the first half. The Rams posted 9 assists and 6 turnovers in the second half despite the limited play of Weber and Lewis.
  • 56 is the fewest points scored by VCU all season and 50 is the second fewest scored against VCU all season.
  • Alonzo Nelson-Ododa scored 9 important points in the first half including a 4-point play. He was held scoreless in the second half.
  • Since the start of February, Rob Brandenberg has just 3 turnovers in 240 minutes of gameplay.
  • VCU is a perfect 5-0 with Melvin Johnson in the starting lineup.

Looking forward

VCU hosts St. Bonaventure Saturday night at 7:00 PM. It will be Juvonte Reddic and Rob Brandenberg’s final game in the Siegel Center.

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Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams loves music, basketball (follow @rvaramnews!), family, learning, and barbecue sauce.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. Michele N on said:

    It was painful & frightening to see Treveon Graham down on the floor for that amout of time & equally scary watching him after he got up. I couldn’t see what had happened but am so very thankful that he is ok. My GAMEDAY prayer every time is for our team to play their best & not get hurt.

  2. Jason on said:

    Quit perpetuating this absurd storyline about state championships. This isn’t a high school team! As a die-hard rams fan since the 90’s I find it ridiculous that all season we’ve talked about ‘sweeping the commonwealth’ and ‘our state’. Who cares??
    1) We went to the FINAL FOUR in 2011, we’re not just some small school who needs to brag about little victories
    2) The only team we beat in the state who’s going to the tourney, unless someone wins a conference (apologies to UR) is UVA, and yes that was a great win, but still from november!
    3) We’ve had an excellent season otherwise! No need to spice it up with some made-up championship.

    I like Aaron’s writing and his game recaps, but I hate to see this state championship thing continuing

  3. Drew on said:

    Treveon’s the man!

  4. Aaron Williams on said:


    I didn’t get to include it at 1AM this morning in the instant recap, but I think Coach Smart’s quote from last night sums it up. FTR, I didn’t ask the question. This isn’t some absurd crusade by me to invent an angle.

    When have I ever said “State Championship?”

    FWIW, I think Virginia teams wanting to beat Virginia teams is awesome. Penn, La Salle, Saint Joseph’s, Temple, and Villanova have something special in Philadelphia even though it doesn’t truly signify anything. What’s wrong with respecting and cheering for local teams all season and then wanting to put a little special emphasis on beating them when you do play them (especially with all of the CAA history back in the day with GMU and ODU)?

  5. Ryan on said:

    Hi Aaron,

    I would wholly support you going on a crusade to make that angle… possibly expanding the Governor’s Classic into a true 8-team double elimination tournament… or egging UVa into a perpetual 1 and 1 series to decide best team in the state… a lot of good match ups here… a lot of great angles.


  6. Aaron Williams on said:

    I think it would be awesome. The state of Indiana is really disciplined about intrastate battles and it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

    There’s a lot of exciting basketball happening outside of the “Big 6”. W&M, Radford, Hampton, and NSU are all playing basketball worth watching.

    After UVA lost to ODU and Richmond lost to GMU in the 2012 Governor’s Holiday Hoops Classic, I’m nervous about its longevity.

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