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Joey Rodriguez stepped to the line with 11 seconds remaining down by three with a chance to give his team a shot at redemption for the second straight game.
As his chance at a 1-and-1 took an opposing bounce off of the rim, it appeared that the senior guard’s luck had run out as he placed his jersey over his head and watched the VCU men’s basketball team suffer a 64-60 loss at Drexel in a critical CAA game.
“It was a really physical game; I give Drexel a lot of credit for making more than their share of toughness plays down the stretch,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “I thought that was the story of the game.”
After defeating the Dragons in the final minutes of the first meeting between the two teams in January, the storyline flipped right in the faces of a desperate VCU team.
The Rams lost control of the game in the closing minutes as they allowed the Dragons to grab four offensive rebounds in the final two minutes, sending Drexel to the charity stripe seven times down the stretch.
“They’re a really good offensive rebounding team,” senior forward Jamie Skeen said of the blunder. “We’ve been working on a lot of box-out drills to cover them in practice, and they still was able to get a lot of offensive rebounds at the end of the game when it counted.”
After torching the Rams for five points and 13 rebounds more than a month ago, junior forward Samme Givens hurt the Rams in the post once again, recording a game-high 18 points and nine rebounds.
Rodriguez and fellow classmate Brandon Rozzell combined for 21 points on the night for VCU.
D.J. Haley earned his second straight start for the Rams and showcased why as he created a resilient presence in the paint for the second straight game posting a career-high five blocks along with three points in 16 minutes of play.
VCU assistant coach Mike Jones’ body language told the story as he spent much of the closing moments of a game that saw the score tied on 12 separate occasions, along with 10 lead changes, on his hands and knees.
After having won seven of its last eight games on the road, the road loss all but diminishes VCU’s chances at an at-large and now forces the Rams into a must-win situation throughout the impending CAA Tournament.
“We’ve got one more regular season game; James Madison’s a really good team, so we got to come out and play really hard – it’s our senior night,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve got to go in there and win the CAA Tournament so that’s got to be our mindset now.”
A mindset that is almost certainly mired in how three-straight conference losses derailed what was shaping up to be a historically good season in the CAA after starting out 11-2.
“All of the big hustle and toughness and grit plays we made on Friday to beat Wichita State, I don’t think we made enough of those in the end of the game tonight,” Smart said. “A lot that, the credit, should go to Drexel.”