As VCU’s backcourt struggled to connect shots and redshirt-senior forward Mo Alie-Cox only recorded 21 minutes of action due to foul trouble, it was pivotal for a big man to step up in VCU’s 73-68 victory over University of Dayton Friday night at the Siegel Center.
Junior forward Justin Tillman connected 9 of 13 shots, recording 18 points and nine rebounds to lead the Rams to a conference shackling victory.
Dedicated VCU fans camped outside the Siegel Center as early as Wednesday to witness VCU knock the Flyers out of first place in the Atlantic 10 rankings and coach Will Wade and the Rams cruise to 6-2 in conference.
“Everybody who played contributed tonight,” Wade said. “That’s what it takes when you’re playing a great team like Dayton.”
The last time the Flyers and Rams met, resulted in a 68-67 overtime Dayton victory after Dayton’s Kyle Davis hit a go-ahead layup with 16 seconds remaining. The Black and Gold contained Davis to nine points at the Stu.
“Last year left a bad taste in our mouth,” Tillman said. “We wanted to come out and send a message today that we can play and win.”
Tillman scored in double figures for the seventh straight game, and is now averaging 14.5 points per game against Atlantic 10 opponents. Tillman’s nine rebounds were a team-high.
46 of VCU’s 73 points came from inside the paint and 26 were second chance points. Tillman recorded five offensive rebounds and Hamdy recorded four, respectively.
“Him (senior forward Ahmed Hamdy) and Tillman were tremendous down there, that’s how we have to play, smash that thing in the paint with energy and get on the offensive glass and that’s what we do,” coach Will Wade said. “And that’s what they did for us.”
Hamdy added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Rams. The Black and Gold outrebounded the Flyers, 41-24
Dayton is in top 25 in the NCAA for forced turnovers per game, averaging 16.05 per game. The Flyers only managed to cause 12 at the Stu, while VCU forced 13.
“I usually give the guys 10 free turnovers a practice this week they got no free turnovers,” Wade said. “Every turnover we were running. The key is we didn’t have a lot of live ball turnovers.”
The pace was steady throughout the first half with the Rams keeping a close distance on the Flyers. VCU trailed by as many as 10 toward the end of the first half, but was able to go on a 10-2 run in the final minutes to come within two going into the break, 33-31.
Hamdy and Tillman provided four points each during an 8-0 burst early in the second half, giving VCU the necessary spark to hold the lead for the majority of the half.
The Rams finally took control with 10-2 run, led by a pair of Tillman buckets, over a four-minute span that pushed VCU to a 61-51 advantage with 2:49 left. Although Dayton would hit a few shots in the waning moments, the Flyers never pulled closer than three the rest of the way.
Wade’s freshman class continued to prove themselves Friday. Freshman guard Malik Crowfield nailed a three pointer and recorded four rebounds and two assists. Redshirt-freshman guard Samir Daughty had another big game for the Black and Gold, pouring in 11 points, 5 assists and 5 steals.
“They (Crowfield and Daughty) were great,” Wade said. “Crowfield was great defensively. He took that charge. I’m probably an idiot for not playing him more before now but that’s alright — better late than never. He did a lot of great things tonight. Daughtry, that’s how he is. He’s efficient, he gets to the foul line. Those guys prepare well.”
The college basketball game of the week is Wednesday night at the Siegel Center when VCU hosts cross-town rival the University of Richmond to secure the first place Atlantic 10 seed. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
Becca Schwartz, Photographer
Sophia is a junior journalism major pursuing a minor in gender, sexuality and women’s studies. She enjoys writing about current events and sports, and hopes to one day be a sports reporter covering soccer, basketball and/or baseball. You can usually find Sophia drinking way too much coffee and laughing at her own jokes.
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