Virginia Commonwealth University overcame a 13-point first-half deficit to win its sixth-consecutive Black and Blue Classic against the University of Richmond, 65-57, Saturday night at the Siegel Center.
A jumper by junior Kevin Anderson gave the Spiders a 13-point lead − their largest of the game − with 3:27 to go in the first half. Five points during the last two minutes of the half by VCU senior T.J. Gwynn cut the lead to seven.
“That’s the leadership that a lot of teams lack,” VCU junior Larry Sanders said of Gwynn’s effort at the end of the half. “I think that leadership brought us back.”
Anderson converted a VCU turnover into a basket with three seconds left during the half to take a 29-20 lead into the half. Richmond held the high-scoring Rams to their lowest point total in a half this year.
Anderson and senior David Gonzalvez combined to score 22 of Richmond’s first-half points. Juniors Dan Geriot and Justin Harper were the only two other Richmond players to score in the first half.
VCU came out strong to start the second half, going on a 19-6 run to take a 39-35 lead. Sophomore Terrance Saintil led the Rams’ charge. He scored all seven of his points during that stretch and hit a layup plus foul-shot that gave VCU a 35-33 lead– its first since 14:25 left in the first half.
Richmond was able to come back and take a lead. The Spiders were ahead by five points with 6:35 after Anderson hit a jump shot. Two baskets by Sanders and a 3-pointer by junior Brandon Rozzell tied the game at 55.
Rozzell hit another clutch 3-pointer with 50 seconds left during the game to put the Rams up by five. Richmond only added a Harper basket as the Rams defense shut down the combination of Anderson and Gonzalvez to seal the game.
“Late in the game, we didn’t get the stops we needed,” Gonzalvez said. “We lost focus the last four minutes or so.”
The Rams outshot Richmond 57 percent to 35 percent from the floor during the second half. VCU also held an 18-4 advantage from the free-throw line during that half.
“Sometimes shots fall, and sometimes they don’t,” Anderson said. “But I think the problem was on defense.”
Anderson was at a loss to describe why the defense was unable to stop VCU at the end of the game.
“I’m not sure what it was,” he said. “They just hit some big shots. We weren’t playing defense, they hit big shots and they won the game.”
Anderson and Gonzalvez combined to score a total of 37 points. Only three other players scored for the Spiders, including Geriot and Harper. Sophomore Darrius Garrett − who left during the second half after injuring his hamstring − added a bucket to be the only bench player to score for Richmond.
Richmond coach Chris Mooney said that Garrett’s injury does not appear to be serious and does not think the injury will keep him out “long-term.”
Mooney also said that his team put a lot of effort into getting ready for this game, which made the loss even worse.
“This is a rivalry, and it stings,” Mooney − who picked up a technical during the second half − said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow because we really want to win this game badly and haven’t been able to do it. The only thing we can do is wait until next year and hopefully do better.”
Anderson said the team would use this game as a learning experience as it got ready to face the University of South Carolina and the University of Florida during the next two games.
“Those are big opportunities for us to get wins,” Anderson said. “This is just a learning experience. [We] can’t be down or that will hurt us more. So we’re just going to learn from it and go into the South Carolina and Florida games at 100 percent, ready to go.”
The South Carolina game is at 7 p.m. on Dec. 16 in Columbia, S.C.
Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at andrew.pre