Eight A-10 teams were in action Wednesday night, with VCU, Richmond, George Mason and La Salle picking up wins. Here are three things we learned:
VCU isn’t going anywhere
Samir Doughty had the best game of his young career (23 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds) in the Rams’ 94-87 win at Duquesne. It was the first time this season VCU has scored 90+ points, and came against a solid Dukes’ defense. Will Wade also got good games from Justin Tillman (16 points, 7 rebounds) and Mo-Alie Cox (18 points, 4 rebounds).
Despite contributions across the board, it wasn’t the prettiest game for the Rams. They still turned it over too much and let a struggling Duquesne offense average 1.09 points per possession. But is it any surprise VCU has closed out two quasi-close road games to start A-10 play? That’s what you expect from the program, and the Rams are now riding a six-game winning streak after that disappointing GT-Illinois stretch.
De’Monte Buckingham is becoming a key piece for Richmond
It does not compute that the Spiders could win a game where T.J. Cline is essentially a non-factor offensively. And that’s what he was, judging by his standards, against Fordham, with just three field goals (9 points). But Richmond held off Fordham in large part because of De’Monte Buckingham. He talked about his role with the Richmond Times-Dispatch before the game.
“Just doing the little stuff is what’s going to bring us the big wins that we need. I just bring that energy and hope my teammates feed off of it.”
He’s doing much more than the little things. Buckingham scored a career-high 22 points against the Rams, and has scored in double figures the past five games, shooting 11-for-23 from three over that span. His explosion has been pivotal with Marshall Wood and Grant Golden sidelined.
George Mason will be a tough out
The Patriots won a fast-paced game against UMass, which wouldn’t seem up the alley of a thin team that was missing a key piece in Justin Kier (illness).
"This was a gritty and gratifying win by our guys," coach Dave Paulsen said in a release. "UMass played very well and our transition defense was not good to begin the game. But then I thought we scratched and clawed in the last part of the first half. I was impressed by our comeback during that time, but when they went back in front in the second half, to keep our composure and come back again was key. We weren't really in sync, but energy plays in that second half helped us at the end of the game."
Being resilient and, frankly, surprising has been GMU’s identity this year. They got off to an underwhelming 1-3 start, essentially play just one big man and have a 6’2’’ guard averaging over 10 rebounds a game.
Yet they now sit at 11-4, matching their win total from last year. The UMass victory was their second best KenPom win of the year after Penn State, but they do have six top-200 wins and three true road wins. This isn’t a team anyone in the A-10 will look forward to playing the rest of the way.