With only a few days left in the regular season, I was excited that I was going to get a chance to see VCU play. Everyone knows what they were able to accomplish last year in their Final Four run. I know it's not the same team as last year, but being able to see a team that was in the Final Four still would have some intrigue factor.
This would also be my last trip up to Wilmington for the year since it was Senior Night for them and the fifth Senior Night I'd be attending. The home teams are 1-3 so far when I've been in attendance for Senior Nights and I hope I'm not becoming a jinx to those deserving players. Obviously, for Trevor Deloach and Cam Chambers it would be a huge upset if the Seahawks were able to get the win for them.
I was hoping to catch all of the pregame festivities, but that would not be the case on this night. It seemed like I was catching every red light on the way to Wilmington on Hwy 17. That, plus there was a bad accident where a lumber truck was overturned in the median with logs strewn across the highway. Even with those diversions I was able to get to the UNCW campus about 15 minutes before gametime. What had been pretty easy parking the whole year became somewhat of a chore this time around as the two primary lots were already filled leading me to park by the softball field. The long walk meant I was going to miss all of the pregame, but a brisk jog got me to Trask Coliseum just in time for the National Anthem.
I figured there would be a huge crowd considering this was the last home game and it was against VCU. To sweeten the pot even more, the Seahawks made all upper level seats only $5 and since I parked in what seemed like Charlotte, I figured it would be a packed house. That was not the case as the crowd was about average and was definitely smaller than homecoming. I did notice a good sized following of VCU fans made the trip, including @VCUPav.
I was half expecting VCU to run away with this one considering Wilmington's struggles as of late. The previous meeting between the two was a 23 point beatdown for the Rams. The Seahawks have only won 2 of their last 14 with both of those wins coming against William & Mary.
VCU didn't come out hot though and had some troubles scoring in the early going. They were getting offensive boards, but they weren't cashing in on the opportunities. It took a while for the Seahawks to take advantage, but they eventually did and went on a bit of hot streak to take a small 24-18 lead. The Rams came back forcing a bunch of steals (they'd have eight in the half) and converting them into easy buckets. VCU had the game tied at 28, but a big 3 from Tanner Milson right before the half gave the Seahawks the lead going into the break.
Whatever Shaka Smart drew up for the Rams at halftime seemed to work instantly since VCU scored the first six points of the second. I figured the rout would soon be on, but a Keith Rendleman dunk settled things down for the Seahawks. UNCW could have taken control of the game since VCU was cold shooting all night, especially from 3 (5-23). The Seahawks couldn't break through though as every time they were getting a second chance opportunity, they would miss a layup or turn it over. You could tell the crowd was dying to explode, but the Seahawks couldn't string a run together.
VCU would capitalize on Wilmington's inability to control the game and started to build on its lead. Juvonte Reddic was a force down low while Rob Brandenberg came off the bench to have a big game with 21 points.
The game looked to be over after yet another steal for VCU, this time from Briante Weber who laid it in for a 60-50 lead. A small stagnant stretch saw the lead dwindle down to eight with about two minutes to go. UNCW looked confused on offense with no hope for a comeback. That was until Rendleman decided to take over. He threw down a two handed slam to get the Seahawks to within six. He then forced a turnover in the backcourt and got a lay in to cut it down to 4. Finally, after a stop on the other end Rendleman got the ball in the post and was able to get a three point play with a minute to go and only a one point lead for the Rams.
It was easily the loudest I had heard Trask all season and I thought the Seahawks were about to come back all from Rendleman's doing. VCU was able to milk most the time off the clock with an offensive board after a missed free throw, but Wilmington had a chance with nine seconds to go and down two. VCU showed why they are one of the elites in the CAA though as Brandenberg stole the inbounds and was able to ice the game at the free throw line.
It was a tough season for the Seahawks and while they have one more regular season game against Hofstra, I'm guessing they'll have a rough go of it in Richmond at the CAA tourney. As for VCU, it was great to finally see them in person. They just kill you with the pressure defense and I can see why they tore through the brackets last year. It's a shame that it looks like it may be a one bid year for the CAA, they have some great teams that could definitely make some noise in March.
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 63, at NORTH CAROLINA-WILMINGTON 59 02/22/2012
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 24-6 (14-3) -- B. Burgess 1-12 2-2 5; R. Brandenberg 6-12 6-8 21; D. Theus 3-5 3-4 9; T. Daniels 2-6 0-0 5; J. Reddic 7-14 0-1 14; B. Weber 1-5 0-0 2; D. Haley 1-3 1-2 3; T. Graham 1-4 0-0 2; T. Okereafor 0-0 0-0 0; J. Guest 1-1 0-0 2; D. Hinton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-62 12-17 63. NORTH CAROLINA-WILMINGTON 9-19 (5-12) -- K. Rendleman 11-16 2-5 24; C. Williams 3-7 1-2 7; T. Milson 3-5 3-4 11; A. Smith 1-6 0-0 2; D. Morales 2-6 0-0 5; F. Jackson 1-2 0-0 2; K. Simmons 1-3 2-4 4; T. Deloach 0-3 1-4 1; N. Anderson 1-2 0-0 3; C. Chambers 0-1 0-0 0; M. Wilson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-51 9-19 59.
Three-point goals: VCU 5-23 (B. Burgess 1-7; T. Daniels 1-5; R. Brandenberg 3-6; B. Weber 0-2; T. Graham 0-3), UNCW 4-11 (C. Chambers 0-1; T. Milson 2-3; D. Morales 1-3; N. Anderson 1-1; K. Simmons 0-1; A. Smith 0-2); Rebounds: VCU 32 (J. Reddic 9), UNCW 41 (C. Williams 11); Assists: VCU 8 (R. Brandenberg 2), UNCW 12 (T. Milson 3); Total Fouls -- VCU 13, UNCW 12; Fouled Out: VCU-None; UNCW-None.