Rams fall out of first place with loss to Dayton
Entering the game part of a four-way tie for first, VCU and the University of Dayton battled to stay atop the Atlantic 10, with the Rams ultimately losing out in heartbreaking fashion against the Flyers, 59-55 on Saturday, Feb. 28.
Missed opportunities factored into the Rams’ defeat. The Rams missed open layups throughout the course of the game which caused Dayton to score in transition. After starting the game on a 8-2 run, a three-pointer by sophomore guard Doug Brooks put the Rams up seven, 11-4, with 12:23 left to play in the first half. After leading 23-18 with 6:36 left to play, a three-pointer by redshirt-senior guard Jordan Sibert would spark a 15-6 rally to close the half and put the Flyers up four, 33-29.
After exchanging baskets to start the second half, the Flyers would push their lead to nine, 45-36, their highest of the game, off two made free-throws by Sibert.
“Coach said there was going to be swings in the game, they’re going to go on runs and we’re going to go on runs, but we got to stay focused,” Sibert said.
On the ensuing possession, a three-pointer by senior guard/forward Treveon Graham would bring the Rams within six. Head coach Shaka Smart’s team would continue to chip away at the lead with scores from Graham, freshman forward Terry Larrier, sophomore guard JeQuan Lewis and redshirt-sophomore forward Mo Alie-Cox.
A fifth and final disqualifying foul by Dayton sophomore forward Kendall Pollard would send Alie-Cox to the line. He would knock down both free-throws to bring the game within four, 51-47. A shot clock violation on the following possession by Dayton would lead to a three-point opportunity after Graham was fouled on a baseline layup bringing the game to one, 51-50. Two possessions later, down 53-50, Graham would create another three-point opportunity converting on a contested layup; however, Graham would miss the free-throw.
A fast break by Johnson would have given the Rams the lead and sent the Stuart C. Siegel center crowd in a frenzy but the dunk rimmed out. Surprisingly the Rams’ high-octane offense has not accumulated any fast break points in the previous two games.
Dayton would continue to make made good on VCU misfortunes, scoring in transition to go up three, 55-52, with three minutes remaining. A Brooks field goal and Graham splitting a pair at the line would have the Rams trailing two, 57-55, with 58 seconds remaining.
Much like the “Freight Train” has done his entire collegiate career and as recent as last Wednesday’s game against the University of Richmond, Graham attempted to win the game with another deep three-pointer. The three-point attempt would not fall but Alie-Cox was primed for the game-tying layup after grabbing the offensive rebound. Alie-Cox would miss the shot and a pair of Sibert free-throws the other way sealed the game for the Dayton Flyers and dropped VCU to 11-5 in conference play and out of first place in the A-10.
“I just missed,” Alie-Cox said about missing the potential game-tying layup. “I just rushed my shot.”
Dayton head coach Archie Miller spoke after the game about what he saw on Graham’s potential game-winner and Alie-Cox’s potential game-tying basket.
“He got a good look, I think he was deep,” Miller said. “I watched him make a step-back against Richmond and I thought it was going in. The second shot, I think Alie-Cox had Bobby (Wehrli) on his back. I think he got over the top of him. It may have been a tough two, I didn’t see it but Jordan was able to get up on the weak side and we were fortunate enough to secure that rebound.”
“In that situation,you try to decide as a coach, should we call timeout or run something or just kind of let the guys play. We made a decision to let them play,” Smart said. “You want the ball in the hands of your best player, he’s certainly made his share of big big shots for us but that one didn’t go in. I thought Mo did a great job of working to get the rebound, unfortunately his foul attempt didn’t go in.”
The lack of concentration plagued the Rams throughout the contest, as Dayton took advantage of the lackluster transition defense. Sophomore point-guard Jequan Lewis posed a threat in his ability to attack the lane, but he could not get his shots to go down.
The Rams continue to look for an answer in late game situations, as the dependency of senior forward Treveon Graham can only be expected to a certain extent. Despite Graham’s missed three to tie the game, the fluidity of the offense in crunch-time has struggled.
The Flyers shot 90.9 percent from the free throw line for the game (10-11), as VCU was able to double the attempts, but only convert 13 of 20. The Rams for the season have shot only a mere 64.2 percent from the charity strike.
As the defense continues to thrive, the offensive performance has gotten worse of late. The Rams were able to force Dayton only shoot 42 percent from the field, but the Rams 34.2 percent haunted the outcome of the game. VCU, normally a solid three-point shooting team, struggled from behind the arc only connecting on 5 of 16 attempts.
“In the end we didn’t make our shots and we didn’t stop them enough,” Smart said.
The Rams will look to put behind their homecoming blunder as they go on the road to face Davidson College March 5.