Rams denied vengeance in double-overtime thriller

Alonzo Small
Sports Editor

Senior guard/forward Treveon Graham attempts a layup against University of Richmond in a home game played at the Stuart C. Siegel on Jan. 31. Photos by Audry Dubon

In a game with as many plot twists and turns as there were momentum shifts, the University of Richmond outlasted VCU 67-63, on Wednesday, Feb. 25 in a double-overtime thriller to sweep the season-series.

After the Rams were down as much as 16 points in the game, junior guard Melvin Johnson hit a three-pointer that cut the deficit to three with 33 seconds remaining in regulation. Thirty seconds later, a deep three-pointer by senior guard/forward Treveon Graham would ensure the Rams an extra period. In the first overtime, the Rams would be on the receiving end of last-second heroics as the inbound pass to Richmond’s redshirt-sophomore forward T.J. Kline pushed the game to a second overtime. Ultimately, the Spiders would prevail in double overtime to sweep the season-series for the first time since 2001.

During the first half, the Rams never found their rhythm as U of R maintained the offensive edge early. U of R went on a 13-5 run to start and would extend their lead to double-digits, 20-10, with less than 10 minutes to play.

Much like the first half of their previous encounter, the Rams could not find their shot as head coach Shaka Smart’s team went 1-10 from the three-point line and 8-25 shooting overall. Still, the Rams only trailed by nine entering the break, 29-20.

The tale of the second half was the Rams’ endless pursuit to overtake the lead. A double-digit deficit turned into a one-possession game off Johnson’s left corner three with 33 seconds remaining. It was only Johnson’s second made basket of the game.

The next possession, redshirt-sophomore forward Mo Alie-Cox intercepted the inbound pass, giving the Rams a chance to tie.

After a first attempt by Graham was missed, two missed free-throws by Richmond senior guard Kendall Anthony gave the Rams another opportunity. Sophomore guard JeQuan Lewis would be rejected under the basket but VCU would regain possession with 6.8 seconds remaining.

The Freight Train would once again become Mr. Clutch, hitting a deep three-pointer for VCU’s first tie of the game.

“Great job by VCU,” Richmond head coach Chris Mooney said. “VCU forced overtime with a great shot by a great player.”

Richmond would miss a last-second heave that touched every bit of the rim sending the game to overtime.

A three-pointer by sophomore guard Shawn Dre’ Jones put the Spiders on the board first in overtime. Graham would respond with two, moments later to cut the deficit to one, 55-54. A miss by Graham turned into a put back dunk by Alie-Cox to put the Rams up one, 56-55 with 1:12 left to play in the game. After trading possession with no success, a rebound by Johnson would send him to the line, where he would make both free-throws. Up three, 58-55, the Rams chose to foul Jones, sending him to the line.

After making the first, a miss on second would cause a scramble for the rebound which resulted in a Richmond possession. An inbound pass to Kline pushed the game to second overtime.

“You never feel like you have the game until it’s over,” Smart said.

In the second overtime, the Spiders continued their momentum swing. After going up three, Graham was called for an offensive foul driving to the basket, denying him a three-point play opportunity with less than two minutes remaining.

Graham would get to the line once more with 11 seconds remaining in the game, splitting free-throws to bring the game within two, 65-63. VCU’s next basket would either tie or win the game.

However, the storybook ending was denied as Graham’s layup attempt was blocked in the closing seconds. Two free throws later, the Rams’ comeback attempt would come up short, falling to the Spiders 67-63.

The loss dropped the Rams to an 11-4 conference record, but VCU remained atop the division in a four-way tie with University of Dayton, Davidson College and University of Rhode Island. Saturday’s loss against Dayton University left the Rams 11-5 in conference play and out of first place with only two games remaining in the regular season.

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