Game #9-302: Saint Joseph`s Hawks at Virginia Commonwealth RamsJanuary 17, 2013 9:00 pm
It seems like its been a season of firsts for VCU on their inaugural voyage through the Atlantic 10. Every time you open the paper you hear about some record being broken or what not. This past week was the story of VCU being ranked in both polls for the first time since 1985. Personally, I think polls are completely meaningless, and it always shows on Selection Sunday, but I'm sure its cool to see your school listed among the nation's elite.
Each "big" name in the A10 brings a bit of buzz around the Siegel Center, its the first time many fans have ever seen some schools play in person (despite the University of Richmond being 15 minutes away). Saint Joseph's was one of those schools that would ignite discussion around town. I think a lot of people still have the thoughts of Phil Martelli's near undefeated season with Jameer Nelson (man was that really almost 10 years ago!?!).
One thing I'm not a big fan of in the Rams transition to the A10 is the change of TV packages. The CAA negotiated a pretty impressive package with NBC Sports but the A10 is with CBS Sports and CBS Sports decided to push this one to a nine o'clock tip. The late tip wouldn't have been that big of a deal if it wasn't snowing in Richmond, which started at about seven o'clock. Snow might not seem like a big deal to some northern TMMers, but people just freak out in the RVA whether its in the grocery store or the roads. The snow would make the usually warm and sweaty Siegel Center feel just a little more comfortable than usual.
As I said many Rams fans haven't seen St. Joe's, but I've seen them plenty at UofR. I was surprised to hear so much talk about the Saint Joe's Hawk. It seemed like VCU fans couldn't get over the fact 1) that a visiting team brought their mascot and 2) that he wouldn't stop flapping his wings. Of course we all know the history of the Hawk, but I've illustrated before the number of fans that VCU has brought to the game who are in fact new to the game altogether.
The whole game was nothing short of spectacular. At halftime VCU found themselves up 38-32 over the Hawks. I think the most important thing to playing at VCU is getting past the initial shock. The stadium is loud, the crowd is crazy, and VCU's press just makes you comfortable right from the opening tip. You can see it in some teams eyes, like Western Kentucky, earlier this year, that their is an expression of "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!?!?". Some teams falter at the raucous atmosphere but others, like Wichita State, embrace it. I attribute it to whomever is coaching and Phil Martelli had his team prepared well.
The Hawks came out on fire in the second half and gave VCU everything they had. You couldn't help but think that a team with, essentially, a six man rotation was going to eventually just run out of gas. This was not the case and the experienced team just wouldn't go away. Langston Galloway and Carl Jones were both very impressive scoring a combined 43 points. Ronald Roberts was also a monster on the boards and ended the night with a double-double with 14 points and 12 boards.
St. Joe's rally paid off as they were up 79-75 with just 19 seconds left. VCU Troy Daniels then made a huge three pointer which cut the Hawks lead to one point. After an intentional foul on VCU St. Joe's made one free throw in a double bonus situation. VCU's Darius Theus rushed down the court and made a VCU lay up to tie the game for the Rams. St. Joe's had 6 seconds to respond but Theus made a steal and we were headed for free basketball!
In overtime the Rams quickly jumped out to a six point lead and then an eight point lead. St. Joe's was finally showing their fatigue as all their starters played over 35 minutes and three played over 40 minutes. In the end VCU would grind out 92-86 win, which was their twelfth straight victory. Graham and Theus ended the game combining for 47 points. Juvonte Reddic had a dominating game scoring 15 points and 17 rebounds.
VCU will now prepare for a short road trip to their crosstown rival Richmond, which should be an interesting atmosphere. St. Joe's, who was the preseason favorite in the Atlantic 10, is now 1-2 in the league and looking to get things back on track. Surely the VCU game will be a bit of a catalyst for them?
It was pretty crazy to leave the Siegel Center after such a great game and see how the ground went from a dusting of snow to a couple of inches. I'd be lying if I said the first breath of cold air didn't feel great!