Wow. Sigh. Deep breath. That was the collective feeling inside the Siegel Center Wednesday night after the VCU Rams pulled out a remarkable 76-71 overtime win over the JMU Dukes.
Wow. Sigh. Deep breath.
That was the collective feeling inside the Siegel Center Wednesday night after the VCU Rams pulled out a remarkable 76-71 overtime win over the JMU Dukes. A frenetic final ten minutes of game action (the end of regulation and OT) exhausted the fans. After the game they filed out quickly, tired but happy.
VCU (now 18-7; 11-3) survived another tough CAA conference battle thanks, once again, to the heroics of senior point guard star Eric Maynor who scored the Rams’ last seven points in regulation (including two clutch free throws with 6.7 seconds left) to force overtime. Then freshman guard Bradford Brugess calmly sank the ‘dagger shot’, a corner three with twenty seconds let in overtime (off a Maynor feed, of course) to seal the win. Describing it after the game, Maynor said, “Its not about me making the shot, it’s about me making the play.” And make plays he did down the stretch–accounting for VCU’s final 21 points (either on his own or via assist).
The story of this game was supposed to be the one that VCU Ram fans have been dreading all season long. It had all the makings of the sort of game you’ve been half-expecting and wholly-dreading, with consistent and unflappable Maynor playing inconsistently and looking, well, very flapped for the first 35 minutes. Even from the pre-game lay-up line, when his first shot inauspiciously curled off the rim (a miss), Maynor seemed out of sorts and the rest of the Rams weren’t able to compensate for their leader.
It was a back and forth first half during and neither team developed a flow, largely due to energetic referees. VCU big Larry Sanders was saddled with two quick fouls and ended with this stunning first half stat line: 2 points, 1 rebound, 2 fouls, and 2 minutes (1 rebound away from the rare quadruple deuce). When a frustrated Maynor picked up a technical foul (also his second personal) with around 6 minutes remaining in the first half, JMU extended to a 5 point lead (26-21).
The Dukes’ Dazzmond Thorton led the way in the first half. Thorton is enormous. He’s listed at 6-7 and a generous (to him, not the scale) 270 pounds. The junior forward transferred from Texas Tech (where he, apparently, started as the defensive tackle on the Red Raider football team). He led all first-half scorers with ten. He also had the midway lead in hot-dogs consumed with seven. Seeing Thorton next to stick-thin Sanders was comical, like a funhouse mirror exhibit gone horribly wrong.
The level of play improved in the second half. VCU used slashing drives and crisp passing to build a lead, but Dukes’ freshman sharpshooter Julius Wells (who ended with a team-high 20 points) exploited his height advantage over Joey Rodriguez and hit three straight three pointers. But this back and forth flurry was capped by a highlight film sequence where a Rodriguez steal led to an over the shoulder Maynor assist and a filthy Sanders dunk. This sequence gave VCU a 47-44 advantage with eleven minutes to play.
But neither team could pull clear of the other in the second. The game saw fourteen ties and eighteen lead changes and a climactic last five minutes and OT. That’s when Maynor (who was shooting just 30% from the floor and was 0-6 from three point range) changed the game’s story-line and single-handed tipped the game to VCU’s advantage. Maynor ended with twenty-two points and nine assists (both game-highs) and yet another performance where he carried VCU on his back. Despite his post-game humility, as far as VCU is concerned, it is (more often than not) about Maynor making the play and the shot.
Wow. Sigh. Deep breath.
- In other CAA games on Wednesday night Drexel beat NU, thus landing the Rams in a tie atop the CAA, with identical 11-3 conference records. Northeastern owns the tiebreaker by virtue of its win over the Rams on January 27th.
- Let’s be honest guys: purple just isn’t a real strong dominant jersey color, particularly when it’s accented (as it was Wednesday night by various JMU players) with leg warmers or haribands. Sorry Dukes.
- The atmosphere in the nearly sold-out Siegel Center was raucous, with a good showing from JMU fans, too. It’s undoubtedly the best sports venue in Richmond.
- VCU President Eugene Trani had his number retired at halftime in a bizarre tribute to his19-year leadership. Can someone explain to me why non-athletes get their numbers retired? Isn’t that a bit ridiculous?
- VCU’s next game is 2 PM Saturday afternoon at ODU.