When you play VCU basketball, there is no doubt that you are conditioned to play, and play, and play. So overtime is no problem for the Rams. Two or three would be a piece of cake.
The same couldn't be said for the team from the other side of town. Richmond's legs gave out sometime between the end of regulation and the start of the extra five minutes, dooming the Spiders to lose 94-89 in a game that they led by nine early.
During the overtime, the Spiders couldn't hit anything that was more than a foot away from the basket, including four of the five free throws that the team earned. That is what happens when you play with one of the shortest benches in the country: tired legs, short shots, and a loss.
Of course, the game may never have gone the extra period were it not for a mental mistake late in the second half. With a two-point lead, and 1:39 remaining in the game, Richmond came out of a timeout with six men on the floor, and inbounded the ball before any of the players were able to realize the mistake. Trey Davis tried to sprint to the sidelines before the refs could make the call, but a demonstrative Will Wade and a perceptive Rams team were quick to point the error.
The foul shot after the technical foul was good, and that one point allowed VCU to earn the tie in regulation.
There was also the strong play of Mo Alie-Cox on the inside that really made the difference. Alie-Cox swatted five shots, including one on a drive by ShawnDre Jones with five seconds remaining and the game tied. Considering he had four fouls at the time, and made it through the overtime without being challenged for his fifth, that was extremely timely defense for the big man.
JeQuan Lewis led the way in what was really a battle of point guards between the two teams. Lewis scored 29 points and played a game of anything you can do, I can do better, with Richmond's Jones, who finished with 26 points.
Outside of the mental mistake that may have cost them, the Spiders did a good job of avoiding errors on the court. Richmond committed just 12 turnovers, and VCU walked away with only seven steals in the game. With the good work of controlling the ball, the Spiders didn't allow VCU to get out in transition often, and avoided big runs by the Rams.
The holes in the Richmond game ultimately did them in. The Spiders had no offensive rebounds in the first half, and finished with just six in the game. Normally an effective 3-point shooting team, Richmond made just 3 of 18 from behind the arc. And missed free throws, especially in the extra period, really came back to haunt them.
It ruined a great performance from Jones, and also Davis who had 16 points and nine rebounds, with most of his damage coming in the second half. TJ Cline added 22 points and Terry Allen put up 18.
VCU's win keeps them undefeated in the Atlantic 10, now 5-0, and was another big win for the Rams, who struggled to earn top victories out of conference to begin the year. The Rams need to continue their strong start in the league to stay in the hunt for an at large bid come March.
Richmond unfortunately is going in the opposite direction, at 2-3 in the A-10. The Spiders have a couple of nice nonconference wins, but the conference record is really going to pull them down again, no matter how good the league is this season.
No matter the records moving forward, all eyes should be on these two again when they meet on Feb. 19. If it is anything like this game, we will all get a treat.