Despite 23 points and 15 rebounds from senior forward Justin Tillman, men’s basketball had its 2017-18 campaign come to an end Friday in Washington, D.C. The top-seeded University of Rhode Island Rams downed the Black and Gold 76-67 at the Capital One Arena in the A-10 Tournament Quarterfinals.
Tillman’s 18th consecutive double-double kept his Rams in the contest until the final seconds of the afternoon. URI’s nine-point margin of victory matches the largest lead of the game. VCU led 59-58 with three minutes to play before Rhody settled matters with an 8-0 run to seize control.
“We had a stretch there where we just couldn’t get a score, and even though we cut it, we just didn’t have enough offensive strength down the stretch there,” said VCU coach Mike Rhoades. “They really shot the ball well from three and that hurt us.”
URI shot 50 percent from behind the arc, compared to VCU’s 33 percent efforts.
Senior guard Jared Terrell, who has been URI’s leading scorer this season, averaging 17 points-per-game, started off cold the first half and only recorded four points. Unluckily for VCU, Terrell found his groove in the second half and totaled 16 points at the end of the day.
URI sophomore guard Jeff Dowtin poured in 18 points on 7-10 shooting, 3-4 from three. Dowtin’s ability to shoot off the dribble and stretch the VCU defense opened up driving lanes for Terrell and Co, particularly down the stretch.
“We’re not a great defensive team,” Rhoades said. “We got better as the year went on. We’ve had some great stretches here late of guarding people but not for a full 40 two days in a row … I thought it was pretty good in the first half; it sort of hurt us in the second half.”
Sophomore wing De’Riante Jenkins provided a dynamic scoring presence for VCU, as he chipped in 16 on 6-10 shooting, 3-6 coming from three. Fellow sophomore slasher Issac Vann was the only other (good) Ram in double figures with 10.
Transfer-senior forward Khris Lane supplied much needed energy and physicality off the bench, as he finished with seven points and seven rebounds in just 16 minutes of action to close out his short career on Broad Street.
For the first time in seven years and since joining the conference, VCU will not make an appearance in the A-10 Championship Game. For the first time in eight years, the Black and Gold will not appear in the NCAA Tournament, as the streak dating all the way back to the legendary 2011 Final Four run has finally been snapped.
Despite a disappointing season for VCU players, coaches and fans alike, RamNation showed out in force as always.
“We won quite a road game here,” said URI coach Dan Hurley. “Anytime you can beat VCU in their region, it’s a big deal … They’ve been the model mid-major program in college basketball for a long time.”
VCU’s 15 losses are the most since Mack McCarthy coached the Rams in 2001. The last time the Black and Gold failed to win 20 games in a season was 2005-2006.
Following the loss, Rhoades was asked whether or not he had any interest in competing in a non-NIT tournament if the opportunity came knocking.
“I’ll assess that,” Rhoades said. “We haven’t talked about that at all all … We’ll evaluate that in the next few days.”
Despite the major letdown, the future is bright for the Black and Gold. Transfer guard Marcus Evans will join Jenkins, Vann and guard Malik Crowfield to round out a deep, talented rising junior class. Rising sophomore forwards Sean Mobley and Marcus Santos-Silva will look to carve out major playing time — and perhaps even a starting gig — next year following the departures of Tillman and Lane.
Sophia is a senior print/online journalism student pursuing a minors in history and gender, sexuality and women’s studies. Over the summer she interned at ABC7-WJLA in the sports department. She enjoys writing about current events and sports and hopes to one day be a sports reporter on the sidelines of game seven of the NBA Finals or in the press box at the World Series.
Zach is a junior pursuing a dual degree in print journalism and English. A proud Norfolk-ian, he enjoys long walks on the beach, English literature of the romantic period and anything pertaining to Harry Potter or baseball. Zach is an avid Red Sox and Patriots fan who can usually be found working at the Student Media Center or running along the James.
Erin is a junior photo/film student pursing a minor in media studies. She has been photographing for the CT since her freshman year. When Erin is not behind the camera you can find her joined by the hip to her best friend and fellow CT photographer Casey and probably arguing with her about one thing or another.