Game #9-029: Wichita State at Virginia Commonwealth RamsNovember 13, 2012 7:00 pm
How do two schools over 1,200 miles apart develop a rivalry? Sure you don't see it happen very often, especially on the mid-major level, but it has seemingly become so between two teams that don the black and yellow. The Wichita State Wheat Shockers and the VCU Rams first crossed paths for the first time in about fifteen years in February of 2011 for a Friday night Bracketbusters showdown. VCU's Joey Rodriguez iced Gregg Marshall's squad with two late free throws for a 68-67 win that would catapult the Rams to the NCAA tournament and a Final Four run. Surprisingly the Rams and Shockers locked horns again in March 2012, this time in the Second Round of the NCAA tournament. Once again Shaka Smart's squad left with a a narrow victory 62-59. Tonight, in a Bracketbusters return game, would Wichita State get their revenge with a revamped, young squad?
There are certain games that you can tell are going to be good and that have plenty of great story-lines. This was one of those games. You could feel the buzz in the town as people scrambled to get tickets on Craigslist (I was lucky enough to grab a pair for $30), sports radio exploded, and you could even feel the excitement as you grabbed a beer before the game. On a day where there was an all-day hoops marathon and Richmond was taking on UNC-Wilmington across town, VCU was the center of the Hoops universe for the evening.
Despite both teams breezing through their first game with double-digit wins, you could tell both squads were a bit rusty at this point in the season. There was a lot of talk about Wichita State coming in as a more inexperienced squad, but you could tell that Gregg Marshall did a tremendous job coaching up his team. VCU never left off their press for the whole game but Wichita State never had trouble breaking it. It was immediately evident that the Shockers had been practicing for a homecoming of sorts for Marshall. Marshall went to nearby Randolph-Macon as an undergraduate and also obtained a graduate degree from the University of Richmond.
Beyond the Shockers' preparation, the other evident theme for the evening was that VCU fans really don't like Carl Hall. The senior forward originally said he would be attending VCU out of junior college but chose to go to Wichita State at the last minute. Tuesday night was VCU's twentieth consecutive "sellout" and every time Hall touched the ball the Rams faithful let them know what they thought about him.
At the half the Shockers held a narrow 28-24 lead as both teams struggled to shoot the basketball. You really thought coming out in the second half that one or both of the teams would catch fire. My assumption was incorrect as both teams shot just thirty-five percent from the floor. The even bigger struggle came at the charity stripe and was ultimately what doomed the Rams. VCU shot just fifty-two percent from the line despite getting there seven more times than the Shockers.
In a game that was dominated by defense, things got tense in the last minute as everyone in the stadium rose to their feet. Darius Theus cut the lead to one with forty seconds left after a pair of free throws. After the free throws Shaka Smart's "Havoc" defense failed him, as it had most of the evening, as Wichita State broke the Rams press easily and got an easy bucket. VCU then took the ball back and Darius Theus quickly made a key three-pointer to tie the game up. Senior guard Malcolm Armstead seemed to disappear offensively in the second half, but he reappeared as a cold blooded assassin as he nailed a long jumper with four seconds left to put the Shockers up 53-51.
Armstead's shot was actually reviewed and correctly called a two-pointer. During the delay and timeout Shaka Smart was busy drawing up what was, hopefully for VCU, a winning play for the Rams. Oddly enough, from full court the ball was thrown to VCU big man Juvonte Reddic in the middle of the floor, who decided to drive. Somehow Reddic got to the rim with 0.5 seconds left and drew a flag from, guess who, Carl Hall. Many Ram fans were screaming for a goaltending, I'm not sure why and the video boards at VCU leave a bit to be desired. So here we are, down two, Reddic at the line... six for seven on the day... if he makes both we're going into overtime. This is going to be a story book ending right? NOPE. Reddic bricks the first free throw, then attempts to chuck the second one off the rim but misses.
In the end it was Carl Hall who had the last laugh as he registered a double-double with twelve points and eleven boards. Shaka Smart left the floor looking dejected and Gregg Marshall left with a solid road win in his resume that might come handy in March. From here, the Rams will have a final tune-up at Marshall's former employer, Winthrop, before heading to the Bahamas to take on #17
Memphis in the first round of a talent laden Battle for Atlantis tournament. For Wichita State, they'll get to return home and host Western Carolina and Howard before spending Thanksgiving in Cancun for an opening round match up versus DePaul in the Cancun Challenge.
Will this be the final chapter in this new rivalry? Or will these two clubs cross paths again in the near future? WICHITA STATE 53, at VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 51
WICHITA STATE 2-0 (0-0) -- C. Hall 6-15 0-1 12; M. Armstead 5-12 1-3 11; R. Baker 3-8 1-2 9; D. Williams 1-4 0-0 2; C. Early 4-10 5-6 13; E. Wessell 1-3 0-0 3; E. Orukpe 0-0 2-2 2; T. Cotton 0-4 1-2 1; F. Van Vleet 0-1 0-0 0; J. White 0-0 0-0 0; C. Lufile 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-57 10-16 53.
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 1-1 (0-0) -- D. Theus 4-11 5-8 15; J. Reddic 8-11 6-9 22; T. Daniels 2-5 0-0 6; R. Brandenberg 1-7 1-2 3; T. Graham 1-7 0-2 3; B. Weber 0-2 0-0 0; D. Haley 1-1 0-0 2; J. Guest 0-3 0-0 0; T. Okereafor 0-1 0-0 0; M. Johnson 0-1 0-2 0. Totals 17-49 12-23 51.
Three-point goals: WICH 3-19 (M. Armstead 0-4; R. Baker 2-7; T. Cotton 0-1; E. Wessell 1-3; C. Early 0-4), VCU 5-14 (T. Daniels 2-4; D. Theus 2-4; R. Brandenberg 0-2; B. Weber 0-1; T. Graham 1-2; M. Johnson 0-1); Rebounds: WICH 35 (C. Hall 11), VCU 32 (J. Reddic 10); Assists: WICH 9 (M. Armstead 6), VCU 11 (D. Theus 5); Total Fouls -- WICH 20, VCU 15; Fouled Out: WICH-None; VCU-None.