Five minutes into the second half VCU looked to be unbeatable at home Thursday, expanding a 12-point halftime lead against George Mason to 17. That was before the Patriots rallied for a 73-61 win, giving the Rams their first home loss of the season.
In response to the Rams’ spurt, the Patriots called a timeout, and the game shifted from the Rams’ dominance with a roaring crowd to the Patriots’ resiliency and a crowd held breathless.
The Rams’ offense got almost every shot they wanted to fall in the first half, working all angles of the court and connecting on 65 percent of their shots.
The Patriots on the other hand had a tough first half, not hitting there second field goal until 7 minutes passed. The Rams, players and fans, showed why they were 10-0 at home with lights-out shooting and crowd presence.
“That performance by VCU in the first half was as good as I’ve seen all year,” said Patriots coach Jim Larranaga. “Fortunately we hung in there long enough.”
Patriots center Jai Lewis and swingman Folarin Campbell were the key players in keeping the Patriots close to the Rams in the first half and leading the mounting charge of changing a 17-point deficit to a victory.
Along with Lewis scoring eight points and Campbell adding seven points, the pair continually put in timely baskets in the first half to hold the Rams back from blowing the game wide open in the first half. Both had an even stronger second half, finishing with 21 and 18 points respectively.
But in the second half they got considerably more help from their teammates. Taking advantage of the Rams’ defense, the Patriots shot 74 percent in the second half in addition to making13 of 14 free throws.
The amazing shooting percentage for the Patriots and the Rams’ poor defense were not the only factors leading to VCU’s second-half collapse. It was the lack of scoring by the Rams that also helped quiet a loud crowd.
“I want to thank the crowd,” Rams head coach Jeff Capel said. “They were great, I’m sorry we weren’t.”
Leading scorer for the Rams with 21 points, Nick George (Manchester, England), said he was disappointed with how he and his team ended the game.
“We weren’t able to hold our lead,” he said. “There has been so many times where we’ve been in that situation when we built a nice little lead and (were) not able to take care of it.”
Though this was a game that George was looking forward to, he said he will not dwell on the loss.
“The main thing is that we come back tomorrow and stay focused. That’s the only way to get better. This is over. We need to put it behind us because if we continue to think about it we stay down,” he said.
Halftime: 36-24 VCU