The third time was not the charm for the Spiders. The Virginia Commonwealth University Rams completed the three-game season sweep over University of Richmond to move on to the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinals.
The Barclays Center in Brooklyn housed VCU’s most complete effort of the series this season, as the Rams led the entire game, usually by double digits, in pulling out the easy win, 71-53, Friday night.
“We came out planning for a 40-minute battle,” Melvin Johnson, VCU guard, said. “We didn’t think it was going to be that way.”
In VCU’s home win over Richmond, it used rebounding and transition offense to pull out the victory. In the road win, the Rams used their three-point shooting and stifling defense. In this neutral-court game, they used it all.
Much like the first matchup between these teams, Rams point guard Briante Weber, recently named A-10 Defensive Player of the Year, set the pace. Scoring 16 points in the first half to help his team jump out to a 38-22 lead, Weber’s services weren’t needed for much of the second half, as the junior guard finished with a game-high 18 on 8-10 shooting.
“I just came out with the mindset to attack from the jump,” Weber said. “I didn’t get to play a lot the last game [against Richmond because of foul trouble], so I really wanted to play more this game.”
Weber’s counterpart, Kendall Anthony, who scored 51 points for Richmond in the first two games combined, struggled to find open looks, and scored only seven points on 2-15 shooting.
“[Anthony] played the day before, so he was a little fatigued,” Weber said. “Our plan was just to make him catch it up higher [away from the basket], and it made him a little more tired.”
Weber was also one of five Rams to grab at least five rebounds, as VCU dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Spiders 53-28. The Rams totaled 20 offensive rebounds, which led to 22 second-chance points. Backup forward Mo Alie-Cox led this effort for the Rams, pulling down 10 boards in extended playing time due to starter Juvonte Reddic getting into foul trouble. Reddic picked up four fouls in just 10 minutes on court.
“[Alie-Cox] is just scratching the surface,” VCU coach Shaka Smart said of the 6-foot-5-inch, 250-pound freshman. “Even though he’s so big and strong, the biggest key with him is just believing, which he did tonight.”
The Spiders dealt with foul trouble of their own, with Anthony, Alonzo Nelson-Ododa and Trey Davis each finishing with four fouls, but Richmond coach Chris Mooney opted to leave them on the court in the win-or-go-home quarterfinal game.
Sophomore forwards Nelson-Ododa (seven points, 12 rebounds, four blocks) and Terry Allen (16 points, five rebounds) each showed up favorably on the stat sheet, but the lone star for Richmond was freshman guard ShawnDre’ Jones, who led the way with 18 points and two steals.
“[Jones] is going to be a good player for us in the future,” Mooney said. “He obviously needs to get stronger, but he handled himself very well tonight.”
Jones shot 3-6 from behind the arc, but three-point shooting proved to be just another advantage for the Rams, who made 7-19. Johnson led the way on 3-8 shooting from the area to finish with 13 points.
With the loss, Richmond is expected to be a fringe NIT team. Mooney said after the game that his team would accept an invitation to the NIT, but not the CBI.