In VCU’s two tournament games, Eric Maynor has scored 41 points and dished for eight assists. He is shooting at a 58.3 percent clip from the field. After having just scored 23 points to help his VCU Rams defeat Old Dominion, to advance into the championship game of the Colonial Athletic Association’s postseason tournament, Eric Maynor […]
In VCU’s two tournament games, Eric Maynor has scored 41 points and dished for eight assists. He is shooting at a 58.3 percent clip from the field.
After having just scored 23 points to help his VCU Rams defeat Old Dominion, to advance into the championship game of the Colonial Athletic Association’s postseason tournament, Eric Maynor was asked about the effect of any lingering thoughts of a regular season loss to the Monarchs he might have had coming into Sunday afternoon’s semi-final game.
Reigning CAA Player of the Year, a senior guard, Maynor explained that he and his teammates had felt confident facing the Monarchs. Then, with his decidedly Southern baritone voice he politely said, “We’re living in the present, right now.”
Having spent most of the first half playing catch-up to fast starting ODU, VCU took a 34-32 lead at 15:07 of the second half on a running jump shot by Maynor. He followed the bucket with a foul shot conversion.
Before a noisy crowd of about 8,000 at the Coliseum the Rams would not trail again in their steady march toward the Monday night championship game: VCU 61, ODU 53.
In the first half VCU head coach Anthony Grant threw a variety of defenses at the Monarchs 6-10, 250 pond, star Gerald Lee, who had scored 30 points against Hostra on Saturday. Lee was guarded by Kirill Pishchalnikov at the start. Then came a zone. Next was Terrance Saintil, then another zone. For the last few minutes of the half Larry Sanders got the assignment.
Lee wasn’t much of a factor in the opening stanza, scoring just two points on 1-6 shooting.
Somewhere in the going Lee’s bad ankle, from a two-week-old injury, betrayed him. In the second half he was limping noticeably, with Sanders checking him effectively most of the time. Lee, who brought a 16.2 scoring average into the contest, finished with just five points.
VCU was fortunate it did not have to deal with the Gerald Lee that Hofstra saw. As disappointing as it may have been for him to lose, Lee will probably open next season, his senior year, as the media favorite to win the league’s Player of the Year award.
One of Lee’s main contenders for that award next season will be Rams center/forward Larry Sanders, who received the CAA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award for the season just completed. Like Maynor, Sanders is having a good tournament. Sanders scored 12 points against the Monarchs and hauled in 14 rebounds.
Maynor, who converted on seven of his 13 attempts from the field, is shooting well in the Coliseum. In two games he has hit 14 of his 24 shots taken and five of seven from beyond the arc. In both games Maynor has seemed to be able to seize the moment at will.
With his eye-popping combination of talents to move with the ball, pass, shoot and defend at a level beyond what the competition can handle, Maynor has grabbed the spotlight during key spurts of both games. So far in the tournament, with the ball in his hands, Maynor’s decision-making has been impeccable.
Presently, Maynor has one more obstacle to clear before his Rams can join the field of 65 at the Big Dance. George Mason defeated upstart Towson by a score of 56-48.
The Patriots, coached by John Larranga, have reached the title game of the CAA’s championship affair for the third consecutive season. Larranaga, who heaps praise on Maynor every chance he gets, has to be remembering the final game of the CAA tournament two years ago.
In that memorable tilt Maynor’s late-game heroics, a pair of steals and nine unanswered points, was clearly the difference in the outcome; VCU won that time by a score of 65-59.
Mason (22-9, No. 46 RPI) vs. VCU (23-9, No. 56 RPI) pits the tournament’s No. 2 seed against No. 1. The betting line has the Rams favored by just two points. VCU won in the only game the two schools played this season (76-71), which was played at the Siegel Center on Jan. 24
With the pretty weather and a pair of in-state-rivals on the floor, a sell-out can be expected. The CAA’s finale will be broadcast by ESPN2 at 7 p.m.
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– Words and photos by F.T. Rea
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