Everybody is chasing 5-0 Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10, which made Saturday afternoon's match up between La Salle and VCU that much more important. Both the Rams and Explorers were two of six A10 teams with a 3-1 conference mark coming into Saturday.
Shaka Smart and his Rams had momentum on their side after taking down Duquesne at home and then getting a big win at Dayton on Wednesday. La Salle was looking to regain some of what the Rams had after losing their first A10 game of the year at St. Bonaventure on Wednesday 66-51.
VCU came out of the gates looking to bomb it from beyond the arc as their first six shots were from downtown with the Rams converting three of them. Despite the early barrage of threes, Jerrell Wright would tie the game at 9 going into the first media timeout of the game.
It was at that point where John Giannini and his Explorers would run into a little trouble. VCU would go on an 11-1 run, sparked by 6 points from Treveon Graham that would propel VCU to a 20-10 advantage at the under eight media timeout.
Five free throws from Tyrone Garland and a strong finish by Tyreek Duren, with a three pointer and a key assists to find Steve Zack as time expired, would cut VCU's lead to just 33-29 at the half.
The Explorers were certainly lucky to only be down four points at the break after shooting just 29.6% from the floor, turning the ball over six times, and letting the Rams grab eight offensive rebounds to generate 12 second chance points. Juvonte Reddic, Briante Weber, and Treveon Graham combined for 15 of the Rams 25 first half rebounds. Graham also added 12 points at the break.
Wright would start to impose his size and strength in the second half scoring the first four points of the half and tiyng the game at 33 just two minutes into the half. VCU would respond though and a monster dunk from Juvonte Reddic just 30 seconds later would spark the Rams to up their lead to 40-33 just one minute after Wright tied the game.
The game would remain at a back and forth frantic pace until the first media timeout when Steve Jack would cut the Rams' lead to 43-41 with a hoop and the harm. We even got a patented "Southwest Philly Floater" from Tyrone Garland in the nearly five minute, 21 point sequence.
At the 12:57 mark Rohan Brown missed two free throws that would have given the Explorers their first lead of the game since the opening minute. It would be less than a minute later though when Tyreek Duren got a big steal and lay up to give La Salle the lead 49-47. Their lead would grow to five points by the under 12 minute media timeout.
Brown would get the Explorers to their high water mark of a 10 point lead with 5:16 remaining. A Juvonte Reddic lay up would get the Rams within four points with 1:43 left. An awkward sequence from Duren and a no foul call on Reddic would give VCU the ball and ignite a Treveon Graham layup to cut La Salle's lead to just two points with 28 seconds left.
Giannini and La Salle did a tremendous job in the second half of not letting Briante Weber guard the ball. Having multiple guards who could handle the ball was a huge plus for the Explorers. Weber had his chance at the 19 second mark though, when he got control of the ball off a steal but landed out of bounds.
Tyreek Duren missed the front end of a one and one with 18 seconds left and Graham would once again streak down the court to tie the game at 73. Steve Zack then took made an unforced error taking an awkward layup and missing as time expired. The miss would send the game into overtime in Philly.
Duren redeemed himself in overtime nailing two free throws with 23 seconds shot to give La Salle an 80-79 advantage. The sequence would give VCU the last shot though, if they wanted. The refs wouldn't have it though as Sam Mills picked up a reach-in call with 5.2 seconds left on the clock. Graham would make his first free throw to give him 34 points in the game, the most by any player under the Shaka Smart era, but missed the second to send the game into a second overtime.
La Salle looked gassed in the second overtime. The game was tied at 82 until Rob Brandenburg gave the Rams back-to-back three pointers and VCU's lead would eventually stretch out to eight points with 1:19 left. A bad foul by Briante Weber would let the Explorers get back within five points with the clock stopped at 53 seconds.
Weber would make five of six free throws down the stretch to ice a 97-89 win for the Rams.
Treveon Graham finished the afternoon with 34 points and 12 rebounds, while Reddic added 27 points and 15 rebounds as the Rams move to 4-1 in the A10 and return home for a match up with Fordham.
Tyrone Garland was the star for La Salle posting 30 points in the hard fought loss for the Explorers. Steve Zack had a double-double with 11 points and 11 boards. It won't get any easier for the Explorers with a Wednesday trip to Foggy Bottom to play George Washington on tap.
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