With the game tied at 61, senior Treveon Graham went coast-to-coast, making a layup in the final seconds of regulation to prove once again that the Frieght Train is ‘Mr. Clutch.’
Treveon Graham has proven just how valuable he is to this team the past three games, despite not playing in one of them.
Friday nights’ gamewinner gave the Rams their 11th consecutive win, improving their record to 16-3 and a perfect 6-0 in the Atlantic 10. In his return game back from an ankle injury, Graham led the way with 21 points. The performance moved him into fifth place on the VCU all-time career scoring list. Graham now trails record holder Eric Maynor by 293 points.
“I always want the ball in those situations,” Graham said postgame. “I’m either going to make a shot or find my teammates.”
Graham orginally injured his ankle in a 89-74 win against the University of Rhode Island on Jan. 13. Graham’s ankle injury left him hobbled throughout much of the second half. Limping noticeably, Graham perservered, scoring 26 points, 16 of which came in the final 15 minutes.
“He’s got such toughness,” head coach Shaka Smart said postgame. “He was gritting his teeth and doing what the team needs him to do. We call on his number a lot on offense and he gets tired and run-down. But he keeps battling and doesn’t complain. He just keeps attacking.”
Four nights later, the injury left him unable to play against Duquesne University. He was forced to watch from the bench as the Rams struggled against a bad Duquesne team that came into the game with a 6-9 record and a 1-4 A-10 conference record.
After planning to play leading up to the Duquesne game, he was scratched from the starting lineup 10 minutes prior to the game when his ankle tightened up.
“If he was able to go he would have played,” Smart said after the Duquesne game. “He is one of the tougher guys I’ve ever been around.”
The short notice effect on the team was evident early on as they looked out of sync in the game, trailing in the opening minutes of the first half 15-9.
Smart admitted that Graham being out changed his outlook for the game.
“ It affected me, you know, I need to do a better job,” Smart said. “I just like that kid so much that, you know, I was upset that he wasn’t gonna be able to be out there. But you gotta move on.”
Eventually, the Rams went on a run to go up 14 at half time, but allowed the Dukes to rally in the second half to cut the lead to two with two minutes remaining. A three by Melvin Johnson the next possession and clutch free throws down the stretch to allowed the Rams to escape with a victory. Still Graham’s presence was missed, especially down the strecth where the Rams could have used his scoring ability to withstand the Dukes’ late rally.
This wasn’t the first time this year Graham displayed his value in unfamiliar terrority. During the season opener against the University of Tennessee at the Naval Academy, the 6-foot-7 forward was forced to play point guard for long stretches. VCU was without senior point guard Briante Weber, who was serving a suspension, and backup point guard JeQuan Lewis suffered a concussion midway through the first half. Graham stepped up to the challenge and helped the team in a wide variety of ways, ending up with a well-rounded stat line of 15 points and 14 rebounds.
The Freight Train has proven his value to the team all year , and the current team statistics back up the assertion that he is a big key to Rams’ success. He is leading the team in points per game (17.1), rebounds per game (6.9), and three point percentage (45 percent) and minutes (28.4) as of Jan. 17.
Graham is an irreplaceable member of the team. By the time the season ends he may very well be the program’s all-time leading scorer. The Rams cannot afford to lose him for long stretches of the season if they hope to make a run in March.