By: Drew Willingham
Headline Graphic Credit: Darrell Owens-LMS Network
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA- On Sunday, not even a winter weather advisory warning could halt this matchup. The VCU Rams arrived at John Paul Jones Arena just as the snowfall started to increase in the surrounding areas. The original forecast of 3-6 inches would be a negated as the actual accumulation would exceed 12 inches. Despite the outside weather, the snow would not impact the indoor outcome as both teams showed up and ready to bring a victory to their respective squads.
The Rams came to town with a 7-2 overall record after a upset win over former head coach Shaka Smart and his Texas Longhorns squad. The Cavaliers entered this game at home with a 8-0 overall record to start this season after a upset loss in the NCAA tournament back in March and look to make a bigger push ahead in this season’s big dance. Both teams have displayed great play to start this season, VCU has played stellar on defense, and UVA thriving on offense. VCU entered the game, #1 in A-10 Scoring Defense, #1 in A-10 Field Goal Percentage, and #1 in A-10 3-Point FG PCT Defense. While UVA entered the game, #4 in the AP Rankings, including a overall home record at John Paul Jones Arena of 170-41 (.804), and a 12-2 all-time record against VCU, including winning 6 out of the last contests.
The first half began with VCU winning the tip off and driving down the court for a 2-point play in the paint to take the lead. The Rams would dominate on the boards and have an early lead over UVA of 6-2 inside the first four minutes of the game. UVA would not be down for long as they would work the perimeter and take the lead with 14:00 left in the first half. VCU would give UVA a run for their money as they would regain the lead with 10:00 left in the half by a score of 14-13. Following the lead change, De’Andre Hunter of UVA would plow through the paint score to on a layup along with the and-1 to give his team a 16-14 lead. VCU would continue to battle and regain the lead on a layup by Issac Vann with 8:00 left in the half by a score of 19-18. The teams would continue to battle until the end of the half and UVA would lead over VCU by a score of 29-24.
Going in to Halftime, we would see 5 total lead changes, 5 total turnovers by both teams, and UVA would be in control since they lead 13:07 out of the 20:00 of first half of regulation. Both teams would struggle in 3PT% as VCU shot 3-11 (27.3%) to UVA’s 3-10 (30.0%), this would need to change if either team wanted to leave JPJ Arena with the victory. VCU’s Issac Vann would be the teams total points leader with 6, accrue 3 rebounds, and a team lead of 1 block. While UVA’s Kyle Guy would rack up 13 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 block. Both teams leaders playing similar besides points scored. The game was set to go either way heading in to the second half. The snow would accumulate to about 8 inches at this point in the game, but the players and coaches remained focused in the tasks ahead.
The second half began with UVA in possession, but a turnover would give VCU’s Marcus Santos-Silva the opportunity to score in the paint to narrow the deficit to 3-points. Issac Vann would follow suit on the next drive with a score in the paint, followed by a 3-pointer by De’Riante Jenkins to take the lead at 31-29 with a 7-point run inside the first two minutes of the half. The Rams would lead by the same score for nearly two minutes before UVA’s Mamadi Diakite would score on a layup to tie the game up at 31 with 16:30 left in the game. Diakite would score on the following drive to regain the lead as the back and forth contest would continue. The lead would continue to change hands until about 7:00 left in the game when VCU would regain the lead on a 3-point play to give them a score of 41-38. The Rams would lead by a score of 43-40 with 5:40 left when Ty Jerome would hit a 3-pointer as well as the and-1 for UVA to give them the lead at 44-43.
The game would continue to go back and forth, VCU would lead 45-44 with 4:21 left in the contest, Ty Jerome would hit another 3-point shot to regain the lead by a score of 47-45. The Cavaliers would remain in control for the final four minutes of the game to hold off the Rams by a final score of 57-49. Kyle Guy would lead UVA with 15-points and spend nearly 38 of the 40 minutes on the floor. Ty Jerome would tally 14-points, 8 rebounds, and spends nearly 37 of the 40 minutes on the floor. It took 4 out of the 5 UVA starters to play 32+ minutes to defeat the VCU Rams, that in itself says a lot and VCU should be proud of that fact. This game saw 13 lead changes, with 6 of those times being tied, and both teams being neck and neck in turnovers VCU with 9 and UVA with 10. Both teams would end the game with abysmal shooting in the 3-point category, VCU would finish 6-29 (20.7%), and UVA would finish 5-18 (27.8%).
UVA is now 9-0 on the season and looks to extend the streak as they travel to South Carolina for their next contest on 12-19. Overall they are playing very well, but need to work on their 3-point shooting if they want to keep the streak alive. Too many 3-point misses could cost them the streak and possibly a run in the NCAA tournament. As far as VCU goes, they are impressing many with their defensive play and had UVA on their toes throughout the majority of this game. In order for them to continue to grow within the A-10, they will need to limit their 3-point shots, as well as continue to get support from their bench. The Rams accrued 16-points from their bench and will need to average about 25 per game in order to give them a chance at victories throughout the remainder of the season. VCU takes on Charleston at home on 12-15 in a contest at the Siegel Center, will they be able to rebound from a heartbreaker at JPJ? I think so, as long as their 3-point percentage improves they have a chance.