Game #9-324: Virginia Commonwealth Rams at Richmond SpidersJanuary 24, 2013 7:00 pm
It's hard not to become a rival with a school that is a mere ten or fifteen minutes away and its certainly something the University of Richmond and VCU haven't avoided. The two schools are nine miles apart but couldn't be more different. While Richmond has a picturesque suburban campus with just over 4,000 students mostly from above the Mason-Dixon line, VCU is located in the city and has over 30,000 students who are mostly local. Richmond is private, VCU is public. It's a clear cut difference and one of those rivalries that seems to end in blue collar versus white collar arguments.
On the court the Spiders and Rams have been clashing since the 1976 season. Since then the two teams had met 66 times before Thursday night with VCU holding the all-time series 41-25. Before VCU's recent success, the Spiders were the basketball royalty in the Richmond area and were known as the team that had gone far in the NCAA tournament and were giant killers. Since the Rams run to the Final Four the city has flip-flopped, but a rivalry has become more intense with the teams not playing each other. The 2011 run for both schools was improbable, I'm sure many forget that Richmond also made it to the Sweet 16 that year. It's hard to explain exactly how much of a buzz there was in the area with both colleges in the Sweet 16.
Thursday night marked the first conference clash between the two schools since 2001 when Richmond left the CAA for the Atlantic 10. The game generated a lot of hype and the 9,000 seat Robins Center sold out far before tip off. Despite the foreseen crowd and the media hype, I had to get my pregame beers in with my dad at Flynn's. It was a challenge, but I was two Miller Lites heavier and it was 45 minutes until tip before we headed to the stadium. The lots were full, which we anticipated, and parked in the neighborhood around the Robins Center. It's a short walk, but the 18 degree weather didn't make it the most fun walk.
It was fun to be excited to step into the Robins Center. I couldn't remember this much anticipation and buzz around a contest on UofR's campus since the Spider hosted Syracuse in the NIT quarterfinals in 2001. It was awesome to see the students showing up earlier and filling up more than forty bleacher seats. The concourse was a crazy scene, but inside the arena there was a calm before the storm.
The ticket free-for-all and proximity of the schools seemed to create one thing that was in Richmond's favor....disorganization. VCU has an awesome crowd with awesome chants, but without their pep band and black and gold sprinkled throughout the Robins Center, it seemed as if the VCU faithful couldn't muster up their normal organized cheers.
This game or series have been renamed something different almost every year depending on the new title sponsor. This year it was named the "Black & Blue Classic". In the past it has been the "River Rivalry", "Jammin' on the James", "Capital City Showdown", and all sorts of other corny names. The thing is, a catchy name isn't needed any more, it's just good basketball.
VCU came into the game as a 7.5 point favorite and sporting some impressive wins. Richmond was just looking to get back on track and claw their way back into the A10 picture. My dad is a VCU grab so of course he was rooting for the Rams. I love an underdog and grew up 5 minutes from the Richmond campus so I had to go with the Spiders. Before the game we were discussing which coach you would want coaching your team if you had to win one game, Shaka or Chris Mooney. You can guess on who took who.
The first half started out just like any other rivalry game...tight. Richmond jumped out to a lead, despite start guard Darien Brothers looking rusty, and went into halftime up three points. I thought Richmond could handle the VCU press because they have good/shifty guards in Cedric Lindsey and Kendall Anthony, and also have a good ball handling big man in Greg Robbins. It seemed from the get go that VCU wasn't going to impose the normal amount of "havoc" that they usually do.
At halftime we were entertained by, a first for me, and contortionist named Stephan if I remember correctly. She was no Red Panda but shooting a bow and arrow with your feet is always impressive. Also how many TMMers can get into this position?
In the latter portion of halftime I saw something I've never seen before.... a head coach pumping up his players in the lay up line. Shaka's motivation may have paid off as the Rams kept inching closer and closer but couldn't get over the hump. Then finally with about five minutes left VCU was able to take a lead and the VCU fans finally started to drown out the huge Richmond student section for this game. With VCU taking the lead we have to fast forward to 35 seconds left when the drama really started to heat up.
VCU found themselves up by seven points at the 35 second mark and many fans started to applaud victory and even more fans started to head for their cars. My dad was perplexed at the number of people leaving, but even I thought it was pretty much over. Apparently Kendall Anthony didn't get the message... Anthony hit three big free throws and nailed a three down the stretch (one of many), simply put...Anthony was on fire. There were seven or so seconds left when the Spiders had the ball in a timeout and were down three. I asked my dad who should take the shot, he said "play the hot hand" (Anthony). I said I would use Anthony as a decoy and give the ball the struggling Brothers, who I had seen hit several big shots before. It turns out Brothers did take the shot from beyond NBA range to send the game into overtime.
The Brothers hit shot was bad for two reasons for VCU, obviously overtime, but it finally allowed Brothers to heat up who was coming off a 39 point career high against Charlotte. Overtime wasn't even a contest and Richmond slipped away with a 12 point win that will probably knock VCU out of the Top 25. VCU fans quickly started staring at revenge on their court on March 2, but Richmond fans partook in a mid-major fan's dream:
at RICHMOND 86, VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 74
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 16-4 (4-1) -- M. Henderson 7-16 8-8 28; D. Theus 3-7 4-5 10; T. Daniels 1-5 3-4 6; T. Graham 4-11 6-9 15; J. Reddic 6-7 8-11 20; B. Weber 0-6 0-0 0; R. Brandenberg 2-10 3-4 8; M. Johnson 5-7 2-2 12; J. Guest 1-3 1-2 3; D. Haley 0-1 0-0 0; D. Hinton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-57 27-37 74.
RICHMOND 13-7 (3-2) -- G. Robbins 2-4 0-1 4; D. Brothers 5-16 4-4 18; C. Lindsay 4-9 5-5 13; A. Nelson-Ododa 3-3 0-1 6; K. Anthony 7-16 7-7 26; D. Taylor 3-5 1-2 10; T. Allen 3-4 1-1 7; T. Davis 1-1 0-2 2; W. Sparrow 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-58 18-23 86.
Three-point goals: VCU 3-17 (T. Daniels 1-5; D. Theus 0-1; R. Brandenberg 1-5; B. Weber 0-2; T. Graham 1-3; M. Johnson 0-1), RICH 12-27 (D. Brothers 4-10; C. Lindsay 0-3; K. Anthony 5-9; T. Allen 0-1; D. Taylor 3-4); Rebounds: VCU 35 (J. Reddic 10), RICH 37 (G. Robbins 8); Assists: VCU 5 (R. Brandenberg 2), RICH 8 (G. Robbins 3); Total Fouls -- VCU 24, RICH 24; Fouled Out: VCU-D. Theus; RICH-D. Taylor.