Men’s basketball splits pair of nail biters

Photo by Erin Edgerton
Photo by Erin Edgerton

Men’s basketball (16-13, 8-8 A-10) last week defeated the University of Massachusetts at Amherst 82-78 on the road before falling to Saint Bonaventure University at the Stu by a final of 68-63.

St. Bonaventure

In a pivotal Saturday night matchup, the Black and Gold hosted junior guard and NBA prospect Jaylen Adams and his Bonnies of St. Bonaventure, who came in with a record of 21-6. VCU fought valiantly, but ultimately fell by a final of 68-63.

A physical start to the game resulted in a plodding pace. Five minutes in, neither team had scored in double figures yet. The senior stars on both teams looked to break the initial slump. Senior forward Justin Tillman and Adams started to match threes.

Photo by Erin Edgerton

Tillman hit two in a row, but Adams bested him with three consecutive treys, pushing the Bonnies lead to seven with a score of 19-12, which caused a VCU timeout.

Out of the timeout the Rams went on a 10-0 run to take the lead at 22-19. Sophomore wing De’Riante Jenkins, who was previously 0-5 from three, finally hit one from deep, which allowed the Rams to go into halftime holding a slim one point lead, 30-29. The sides combined for 20 turnovers in a hectic first half.

Senior starting point guard Johnny Williams said the Rams’ lackluster first half execution cost them.

“We must execute better and cut down on the turnovers,” Williams said.

Early in the second half, a VCU steal led to a lob from sophomore wing Isaac Vann to Tillman, which got the Stu roaring.

The Bonnies maintained a four point lead for a majority of the second half. Multiple times the Rams were able to cut the deficit to one, but were unable to get over the hump.

With just over two minutes remaining, the Bonnies led 60-57. A drive and kick from Adams to his teammate Courtney Stockard in the corner resulted in the dagger. Stockard sunk the trey, sending the Stu into stunned silence. Stockard and Adams tied for a game high on the night with 21 points apiece.

Tillman did his part for the Rams with another double-double, as he scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Photo by Erin Edgerton

Coach Mike Rhoades said his Rams wasted one of their best defensive efforts.

“I was disappointed in the loss because I believed this was their best defensive effort for forty minutes all season,” Rhoades said. “I want to see how much momentum can his team build in the next seven days heading into the conference tournament.”

UMass

The Rams traveled up north to take on the University of Massachusetts at Amherst Tuesday evening. VCU gutted out an 82-78 victory over the Minutemen.

Jenkins led the rams in scoring in the first half with 11 points.

On the other side, Umass’ Luwane Pipkins, who is the A-10 conference leading scorer, was just getting started as he put up fourteen points in the first half.

The Black and Gold led 39-38 heading into the halftime break.

The key for the Rams was their ball movement in the second half. Freshman forward Sean Mobley, who did not score, still had a major impact on the game, totaling seven assists on the night, with six of them coming in the second half.

Tillman, VCU’s Mr. Reliable, showed up big when it mattered most. Tillman put up 19 points after the halftime break to go along with a game-high 13 rebounds.

Pipkins scored 24 of his game-high 38 points in the second half to keep the game close. But nobody else on the Minutemen scored in double figures in the second half.

VCU simply outshot Umass in the second half of the game, shooting a gaudy 62 percent in comparison to Umass’ pedestrian 42.9 percent. The Black and Gold also shot 40 percent from the three point arc throughout the entire game.

Photo by Erin Edgerton

It is officially now or never for the 2017-18 men’s basketball team. With an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament out of the question, VCU must win the A-10 Tournament Championship in order to extend its coveted streak of seven consecutive appearances in the Big Dance. The Black and Gold will send off senior leaders Tillman and Williams Wednesday night at 7 p.m. when the Rams take on George Mason University in the last home game of the season. The regular season concludes Saturday afternoon with a trip to Fordham University. Both contests are must wins if the Black and Gold hope to secure a double-bye in the conference tournament.


Nile McNair, Contributing writer

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