What to expect: VCU looks for first win at Richmond since 2009

VCU travels across town Thursday night to visit UR in the newly remodeled Robins Center. On paper this matchup is very lopsided but rivalries rarely follow the script.

  • What: VCU (22-7, 10-4) vs. Richmond (18-11, 8-6)
  • Where: Robins Center
  • When: Thursday, March 6th at 9:00 PM
  • Watch: CBS Sports Network (Verizon 94 & Comcast 732/854)
  • Listen: Rams Radio

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Virginia Commonwealth University visits short-handed University of Richmond Saturday night in the recently remodeled Robins Center. On paper this matchup is lopsided but rivalries rarely follow the script.

The Rundown

VCU should win this game easi…Stop.

Rivalry games are different. Forget momentum. Forget who’s the better team. Rivalry games have a way of transcending what’s believable and tipping the scale in bizarre and unexpected ways.

There’s no way around it, VCU is a much better team than Richmond on paper. The fact that this is a rivalry game played in the Robins Center takes a flamethrower to that piece of paper. Richmond has the players (Kendall Anthony and Alonzo Nelson-Adoda are as talented as anyone in the league), the home-court advantage, and the drive to beat an unfocused team wearing Black & Gold.

Look no further than one year ago. #19 VCU blew a 7 point lead with 37 seconds remaining before losing 86-74 in overtime in the Robins Center. In fact, Coach Smart has never won in the Robins Center where the Spiders have developed quite a reputation for upsetting teams and downing ranked opponents.

Thursday, the Spiders will have extra motivation: it’s senior night for sidelined Cedrick Lindsay. Lindsay is the sole remaining player from Richmond’s 2011 Sweet 16 team and his career ended due to torn MCLs in both knees after the VCU game. It is bound to be an emotional evening and seeing him on the bench could be kindling for the kind of fire Richmond needs to “uphold their end of the rivalry.”

This is March and it’s time to expect the unexpected. VCU needs to play with emotion while staying focused on one thing: taking care of business.

The Team

The same week Cedrick Lindsay was sidelined, senior forward Derrick Williams left Richmond for “family reasons.” Despite a very successful career in Richmond, Williams had seen his role diminish before leaving the team and Richmond still has plenty of young talented forwards.

Coach Mooney still uses the Princeton offense and the Spiders will do some interesting things on defense including using a matchup-zone, but Richmond is a much different team than last year. The 2012-13 Spiders relied on balanced and efficient 3-point shooting to outscore their opponents while this year’s squad has used defense to make up for their lack of outside scoring.

The Spiders rank 60th in adjusted defensive efficiency thanks to strong perimeter defense and the shot blocking ability of sophomore Alonzo Nelson-Ododa. They aren’t great defensive rebounders and they foul plenty, but they rank 7th nationally in defensive 3-point percentage and 96th in blocked shots.

The Spiders were finding more success with their defense-first approach. They boast wins over #13 Massachusetts, Dayton, and Saint Joseph’s and their losses are understandable. They even responded to the loss of their senior class by winning 4-of-5 games but emotionally fueled runs have a tendency of burning out. Richmond is coming off of back-to-back losses: a 69-60 loss to George Mason and a 66-43 beat down at Rhode Island where they shot 23%.

Richmond has a great track-record against VCU’s press. Coach Smart considered calling off the press in the second matchup last season as Richmond’s triumvirate of guards capitalized on the Rams’ extended defense. On several possessions he called off the press against Kendall Anthony with little success on 2/1. VCU will probably be forced to win in different ways come Saturday.

The Star: #0 Kendall Anthony*

15.7 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.7 SPG

Kendall Anthony’s 36 minute, 31 point, and 3 turnover game against VCU on February 1st was one of the most impressive performances ever against HAVOC! 31 points is a rare feat against the Rams, but the most impressive part doesn’t even show up in the box score. Anthony single handedly beat the press possession after possession. Using his speed and ball-handling, he switched between attacking the middle of the court and running the baseline which he turned into very easy scoring opportunities.

Anthony will be without his partner in crime Lindsay, but he has the tools to be effective against VCU regardless of his supporting cast.

Supporting Cast

#4 Wayne Sparrow* (G, Junior) • After losing his starting role in December, Sparrow is back in the starting lineup for post-Lindsay UR. His offensive efficiency has plummeted during his junior campaign and he won’t have an easy time against HAVOC!.

#5 Trey Davis* (SF, Sophomore) • Davis had 8 points, 9 rebounds, and an assist on 2/1. The Spiders need him as a scorer more than ever and their success depends upon him stepping up again and more.

#11 Deion Taylor* (F, Sophomore) • Taylor had a great freshman campaign but he struggled on offense starting this season. He’s 6-foot-7 and can score from anywhere on the court. He shot .400 from 3-point range last season but is at .274 right now.

#33 Alonzo Nelson-Ododa (C, Sophomore) • Starting the 2/1 game, Nelson-Ododa was a defensive force. He blocked three early shots and grabbed two steals but foul trouble sent him to the bench and limited him to 17 minutes. VCU’s offense immediately picked up with the sophomore shot-blocking sensation off of the court. If he can play 30+ minutes against VCU, Richmond will have a much better shot at winning.

#3 ShawnDre’ Jones (G, Freshman) • With Lindsay sidelined, Jones reeled off five straight double-digit performances including a 25 point outburst against George Washington on 2/18. The adrenaline has worn off or the defenses have tightened up. Jones is just 5-of-23 over his last two games with 16 total points.

#15 Terry Allen (G, Freshman) • Terry Allen is piece number two of Richmond’s three talented sophomore forwards. His efficiency has decreased since last season, but he’s been effective at grabbing rebounds and waiting for his moments. He’s capable of scoring 18 points on any given night.

The Prediction

Once the dust had settled after VCU’s win on February 1st, the Rams’ visit to the Robins Center looked like it would be a tough battle. Things have changed but VCU still needs to take the Spiders seriously. Expect VCU to win by 8. KenPom picks VCU to win 68-64 with a 64% chance of victory.

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Richmond Profile

  • Location: Richmond, VA
  • Enrollment: 4,350
  • Conference: A-10
  • All time series: VCU leads 43-26.
  • Last meeting: 2/1/2014. VCU won 81-70.

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Aaron Williams

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

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