First-half score: Richmond – 26, VCU – 22
Analysis: Richmond, which did not trail in the first half, holds a 26-22 lead at the break. Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, who did not start, leads the Spiders with nine points. Virginia Commonwealth University’s Treveon Graham scored 10 points on 4-5 shooting, but the rest of the Rams combined to shoot 4-17 from the field. Kendall Anthony scored five points in the first minute, and ShawnDre’ Jones hit a pull-up 3-pointer to give Richmond an early 8-2 lead. The Spiders, in particular the forwards, struggled to score early. In the first 10 minutes, Richmond’s forwards shot 0-4. Nelson-Ododa was the first forward to score when he hit a 3-pointer despite being fouled. Richmond led 16-8 after the foul shot. Richmond made up for its offensive struggles with some of its best defense of the year. Richmond constantly forced VCU into tough shots, did not let the Rams get in transition and kept the A-10′s best offensive rebounding team from getting many second chances. VCU did not break double digits until Melvin Johnson hit a 3 with just over six minutes left, which cut Richmond’s lead to seven. A 5-0 VCU run cut Richmond’s lead to 21-17, but an and-1 by Nelson-Ododa followed by a thunderous slam in transition by Deion Taylor gave Richmond some breathing room heading into the half.
What to look for in the second half: VCU needs to own the turnover battle if their system is going to work, and it did not do that in the first half. The Rams’ Havoc defense managed to force Richmond into 10 turnovers, but VCU committed nine of its own. If Richmond can keep the turnover differential close, it should stay with the Rams. VCU also looked to have the rebounding edge coming into tonight, but the Spiders out-rebounded the Rams 16-3 and held them to three offensive boards. Richmond’s four sophomores have collectively been as aggressive on the boards as ever. Each grabbed at least three rebounds. Richmond played a fantastic first half and deservedly lead at the half. The Spiders, however, will need to either figure out its offense, or continue to play superb defense and keep the Rams off the offensive glass to pull out the win.