Recap: Terrible call stymies VCU comeback

Saturday was a memorable VCU comeback in the making until a terrible blown call cost the Rams an opportunity, but there was so much more to the game than one call.

Despite trailing by as many as 13 points, Virginia Commonwealth University fought back to a 65-62 deficit with 32.9 seconds remaining before a terrible call derailed their comeback in a 69-62 loss at Saint Joseph’s Saturday night.


With 5:56 remaining in the game, Ronald Roberts Jr. delivered a spirit-breaking dunk over a VCU defender to give the Hawks a 63-50 lead. The only problem for Saint Joseph’s: VCU didn’t pack up their bags or start heating up the bus in the parking lot. Instead, Treveon Graham immediately hit a midrange jumper that ignited a three minute 10-0 run for VCU.

Treveon Graham willed VCU past UVA at the beginning of the season. He willed the Rams past La Salle in Philadelphia in 2OT two weeks ago. Saturday, he scored eight points during the 10-0 run, and he looked poised to deliver another memorable performance despite shooting 2-of-11 in the first 36 minutes of the game.

DeAndre Bembry stopped the run with a layup with 1:28 remaining but Juvonte Reddic immediately scored to give the Rams a 65-62 deficit and Coach Smart called a timeout with 1:15 remaining on the clock. The Hawks milked the clock for all it was worth, but the Rams got a key stop, Treveon Graham grabbed the rebound and pushed the ball, and then it happened.

Treveon Graham was driving to the basket when Halil Kanacevic who had four fouls stepped into Graham’s path after Graham had left his feet. Charge.

The block/charge is the worst situation in college basketball and every now and then it results in socceresque flopping. This wasn’t one of those situations. This was a terrible, momentum-destroying, comeback stymying, game-changing, blown call.

VCU vs. the refs

It’s important to remember that the call stopped the comeback. It did not, in absolute terms, decide the game. It wasn’t the blown goal tending call from VCU’s 53-51 loss to Wichita State last season that would have put Juvonte Reddic on the free-throw line with a tie and a chance to win it with zero seconds on the clock.

Would VCU have completed the comeback in the most VCU way imaginable if that call goes the right way? Probably. If it’s called a block, Halil Kanacevic who made countless plays all day fouls out. If it’s called a block, Treveon Graham gets an and-1 – but he still has to hit the free-throw and a team that abused the Rams’ half court defense has 32.9 seconds on the clock at home.

There were other questionable calls in the game, but a significantly more sizable factor in VCU being down three points with 33 seconds remaining and 13 points with six minutes remaining was the play of Saint Joseph’s.

Halil Kanacevic played 40 minutes despite having three fouls early in the second half and four fouls down the stretch. He finished with 7 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, two blocks, and two turnovers while also being a valuable asset against VCU’s press. Numerous times he passed out of the high post to a cutting Hawk for an uncontested layup.

Langston Galloway finished with 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting and six rebounds while playing 39 minutes. Freshman DeAndre Bembry finished with 18 points in 35 minutes. The Hawks’ starters played 184 out of 200 minutes against HAVOC!. They deserve a tip of the horns just for being that gutsy and attempting something many said they could never do.

The Hawks made plays. They abused VCU on the offensive glass where they scored 15 second chance points–in the first half! They entered the game ranked 247th in offensive turnover percentage and they only turned ball over 12 times. In fact, they capitalized on the pressure so frequently that at times it looked like a disadvantage for VCU.

Saint Joseph’s was also excellent on the defensive end where they limited the Rams to less than one point per possession while also frustrating the Rams with defense in the paint and six don’t-come-at-rim-anymore type blocks. Outside of Melvin Johnson who finished with 14 points and Juvonte Reddic, VCU didn’t make offensive plays in the half court like a winning team.

In basketball, one call rarely decides a game. The shear number of scoring events and other events makes it less susceptible to being decided by the man in zebra stripes than football, soccer, or baseball.

One call stopped the comeback and maybe cost VCU the game, but to use the tired and inaccurate narrative that the refs also stole it from VCU in the first 35 minutes takes away from the fact that Saint Joseph’s played a gutsy and heart-filled game.

Top performer: Juvonte Reddic

33 minutes, 17 points (7-of-12 shooting), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 3 steals, 4 turnovers

He failed to tally his fifth consecutive double-double, but his stat line speaks for itself. Two of the turnovers weren’t really his fault and he battled the entire game. He went a frustrating 3-of-7 at the charity stripe with all four misses coming in the second half, but Reddic was a huge reason why VCU was even in this game towards the end. His continued success will be imperative during VCU’s difficult next three game.

5 stats

  • Before Thursday, Briante Weber had tallied less than two steals once this season. Now he’s done it in back-to-back games.
  • Saint Joseph’s shot .528 from 2-point range and rebounded .351 of their misses.
  • VCU entered the game avaergaing 26.6 free-throw attempts per game. They finished 8-of-12 from the charity stripe.
  • Four is the second fewest 3-pointers hit by VCU all season. They went 3-of-12 against George Mason.
  • 26 is the fewest points scored in a half by VCU since beating Boston College on 12/28/13.

Looking forward

VCU can’t dwell on the loss. They rematch George Washington on Wednesday in the Siegel Center before visiting Saint Louis on Saturday and visiting Massachusetts the following Friday.

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Aaron Williams

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

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