BROOKLYN, N.Y. — The VCU men’s basketball team has reached its second consecutive Atlantic 10 title game and will play Saint Joseph’s University on Sunday for a chance to claim its first conference championship after moving over from the Colonial Athletic Association two years ago.
A 19-point victory against George Washington University Saturday helped secure the Rams’ second straight title game bid just hours after the Hawks beat St. Bonaventure 67-48.
VCU lost its only matchup against SJU this season — a seven-point nail biter at Michael J. Hagan ’85 Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Feb. 8. Hawks guard Langston Galloway scored 24 points and grabbed six rebounds in that game, but perhaps VCU’s toughest challenge will be stopping SJU forward Hilal Kanacevic, who notched 26 points and 17 boards in the Hawks’ semifinal win Saturday.
Likely guarding Kanacevic will be VCU senior forward Juvonte Reddic, who led the way for the Rams with 17 points and eight boards in their January defeat in Philadelphia.
VCU will likely be without the services of Melvin Johnson after the sophomore guard suffered a left knee injury minutes into the Rams’ semifinal matchup against GW.
The Rams helped turn SJU over just 12 times in their previous matchup, and Hawks head coach Phil Martelli said Saturday his team will need to take good care of the ball once again to claim the A-10 crown.
“VCU, with their pressure, you can’t turn the ball over that much,” Martelli said. “We were fortunate enough to beat VCU at the end at home. I expect that this will be a high-energy game”
Rams head coach Shaka Smart acknowledged that Sunday’s contest will be a grinder too.
“I know that Saint Joseph’s wants it (the Atlantic 10 championship) just as much as we do,” he said.
VCU (26-7, 12-4) finished the regular season ranked second in the conference’s regular season standings, while SJU (23-9, 11-5) finished in fourth place. The two teams will tip-off at 1 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.