For the first time as conference foes, VCU welcomed Davidson College to the Siegel Center for an Atlantic-10 showdown on Wednesday, Jan. 7, winning the contest 71-65 for their seventh straight win.
At 11-3, VCU entered the contest having never defeated Davidson. The Wildcats entered the contest sporting a 10-2 record which tied a career best start for 26-year head coach Bob McKillop. On the heels of defeating University of Richmond days prior, the Wildcats were poised for an RVA sweep. However, the Rams, who would be the Wildcats’ first A-10 road opponent, had other plans.
Fifty-nine seconds passed before senior Treveon Graham would drain two free throws to put the Rams on the scoreboard. After quickly tying up the game, Davidson would take the lead with a three-point shot by Davidson’s junior guard Brian Sullivan. A three-pointer by junior Melvin Johnson would follow. The Rams’ next scoring possession saw Graham connect with a mid-range jumper giving the Rams a lead they would not relinquish for the remainder of the game.
Like many gamers prior, the first-half saw the Rams spread the ball efficiently, with an 11-player rotation. Nine Rams would score. Leading the way in the first half was sophomore guard Doug Brook, who administered eight points for the offense. Graham and Johnson finished behind with six points each.
Statistically, the Rams would shoot a combined 13 of 33 from the floor (39.4 percent) and would knock down four out of 14 three-point attempts (28.6 percent).Entering the break, the Rams held a four-point lead 38-34.
In the second half, VCU would not let up. While the Wildcats were able to pull within three, 40-37, in the opening minutes, the Ram would push their lead as high as 13 with just under eight minutes to go (57-44) before Davidson fought back to close the gap. Davidson would keep the contest close playing up-tempo style of play with perimeter shooting off the pick and roll, setting up wide open looks from the floor.
With 3:30 left in the half, a three-point shot by Graham could have been the dagger putting the Rams up 10, but a three-pointer the other way by Oscar Michelson kept the Wildcats alive momentarily. A block by Alie-Cox would lead to a three pointer by Johnson in transition off an assist by senior guard Briante Weber. The Wildcats would respond with a quick three and with two minutes to go trailed 69-60.
While the Wildcats would drop five of their final seven three-point shots, it would not be enough and the Rams prevailed with a six-point victory. It would be their 12th victory of the year to maintain an undefeated record in the A-10.
Graham finished as the game’s leading scorer with 15 points, also adding 10 rebounds. Johnson would add 11 points going 3-8 from the beyond the arc and freshman Terry Larrier had what head coach Shaka Smart called “his best game of the season” finishing with 11 points in 17 minutes of play.
Weber accounted for four steals tying him for fourth place on the NCAA career steals chart (353). Graham also moved up to eighth place on the VCU all-time scoring record’s list, only needing seven points to do so. The “Freight Train” only needs two points to move to seventh all-time.
Individual accolades aside, head coach Shaka Smart complemented both teams for their intensity throughout the game.
“Both teams really battled and played with a lot of spirit,” Smart said. “That was one of our goals coming into the game, to have a high level of spirit.”
Another team goal for the Rams was to try and shut down one of the premier talents in the A-10: Davidson sophomore guard Jack Gibbs, Weber alluded to postgame. Gibbs entered the contest as the reigning A-10 Player of the Week and led the team in three-point field goal percentage (.481), free-throw percentage (.909), assists (4.8) and steals (1.7). The Rams held the third place scoring leader to just 11 points and one for 10 shooting from the floor after scoring 32 points the game prior against the Spiders.
“He (Gibbs) just had 32 on Richmond, he’s an excellent player,” Weber said postgame about how the coaching staff raved about Gibbs. “Those three days we had to prepare for Davidson, I’m pretty sure the team and I definitely got fed up with hearing about Joe Gibbs. All due respect, he’s a great player, but we took him out as a team.”
Up next, the Rams embark on a three-game road trip. The Rams then return home for two games to close out the month of January.