Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
For a stretch of 8 minutes and 52 seconds, the Rams did not make a single shot from the floor or the free throw line. UCF took advantage of the scoring drought, scoring 18 unanswered points.
The drought proved to be the difference as VCU fell to UCF 73-58 in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament in Columbia, South Carolina.
Early on, the Rams limited UCF’s star 7-foot-6-inch forward Tacko Fall by double — and at times triple — teaming him. He started the night off shooting 0-for-2 and had a shot blocked by sophomore forward Corey Douglas.
VCU’s first-half shooting woes allowed UCF to go on two big runs to take a 10-point lead. The Rams shot 28.6 percent from the field, including 0-for-9 from three. The Knights shot 46.7 percent, with 50 percent from beyond the arc.
“I mean, Tacko [Fall] is 7 foot 6 inches,” junior guard De’Riante Jenkins said. “I mean, some of those shots that we usually get at the rim is kind of hard to get those with him down there. We got some good looks from three. We just couldn’t knock them down tonight.”
Jenkins finished with 10 points and three rebounds in the final game of the season for the Rams.
UCF used an 11-0 run midway through the first half to take the lead from the Rams; the Knights had four different players log points during the run. The Rams were held without a field goal for just over three minutes as the Knights took the lead.
The Knights went on another run, this time 10-0, to close out the first half and take a 10-point lead into the locker room.
The Rams showed signs of life in the latter part of the second half, going on an 11-0 run to pull within 9. The closest VCU got was 7, but the Knights made tough shots when they needed to.
Junior guard Malik Crowfield shot 3-for-4 from beyond the arc, including back-to-back 3-pointers. He finished with a team-high 11 points.
“They made a huge run, so I’m thinking on the bench, ‘I need to bring more energy so we can keep this game close,’” Crowfield said. “When I got in the game, I started hitting three threes in a row, and De’Riante [Jenkins] started hitting threes, and that’s what got it going.”
The Rams finished the season as Atlantic 10 regular season champions, and Rhoades was named A-10 Coach of the Year in his second season as head coach.