Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Injuries and a short bench plagued men’s basketball as it split its last two games of the regular season without sophomore guard Bones Hyland and junior guard KeShawn Curry.
Now, the Rams have turned the page and are set to co-host the Atlantic 10 tournament with Richmond from Wednesday to Saturday. The black and gold will face the winner of Dayton and Rhode Island on Friday at 3:30 p.m.
Injuries and absences
Hyland has missed the past two games with a foot sprain, including the black and gold’s loss at Davidson this past Saturday.
Coach Mike Rhoades said Hyland was held out of the game due to pain, stressing he wants the Wilmington, Delaware, native to “be healthy” for the postseason.
“He had some pain [and] just wasn’t able to play,” Rhoades said after the game. “We want to get him as close to pain free as we can. And he wasn’t there. He had a couple good days, but there were still some lingering effects there.”
Junior forward Vince Williams exited the Davidson game with a sprained ankle and was reevaluated when the Rams returned from the road trip. Freshman forward Mikeal Brown-Jones suffered a dislocated finger last week and aggravated the injury against Davidson on Saturday.
Rhoades said Brown-Jones, Hyland and Williams all rehabbed their injuries early in the week in an effort to get them back on the court. The three players are all listed “day-to-day,” Rhoades said.
“It’s day-to-day to make sure they’re doing things right and that we can get them on the court here for a couple days of practice and then a game on Friday,” Rhoades said.
Curry missed his second-straight game as he’s away from the team after the death of his brother on Feb. 20. Rhoades said on Monday that Curry will not be playing in the A-10 tournament games this week.
The A-10 tournament is traditionally played at a neutral site and has been in Brooklyn, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., in past years. This year, it’s a local location for the black and gold.
Rhoades said the team will stay in a hotel Thursday night and then take a bus to the game at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.
“At this time of the year, you don’t even think of home or away, it’s your opportunity to play,” Rhoades said. “Now it’s about ‘we’re going to get to play this year. Last year, we didn’t get to play.’ It doesn’t matter where we play.”
Williams said the tournament feels like “a regular home game, just with more at stake.”
“They’re going to come in here wanting to beat us a lot and we just want to maintain and keep winning at home,” Williams said. “We gotta take care of our home business while we’re here.”
The quarterfinal matchup
The Rams will face the winner of Dayton and Rhode Island — teams the black and gold have already beaten this season — on Friday at the Siegel Center.
VCU beat Dayton twice this season, once in Richmond and the other on the road. Rhode Island, who has won eight of the last 10 meetings against the black and gold, split the season series with each team winning on the road.
Williams said the third time playing a team is the hardest.
“They’ve got the same scout, and they’re watching other [VCU] games too,” Williams said.
Senior forward Levi Stockard has been efficient against Dayton this season, only missing two shots out of 11 attempts. He said the wins against Dayton and Rhode Island add confidence, but the postseason is a new setting.
“We’ve beat these teams, but honestly it’s a new season, really,” Stockard said. “You never know what’s going to happen, you’ve got to be locked in ready to play. It’s a crazy month.”
The top four
The Rams are the No. 2 seed in this week’s A-10 tournament in Richmond. St. Bonaventure is the top seed, and Davidson and Saint Louis round out the top four. The top four teams in the tournament all received double byes to Friday’s quarterfinals.
No. 1 St. Bonaventure
The Bonnies and Rams split their season meetings, each winning at their respective home arenas.
In the first meeting, Dominic Welch led the Bonnies with 19 points on 5-of-6 shooting from deep, as St. Bonaventure won 70-54 on Jan 20. The second half was the difference for the Rams in the meeting, only shooting 19% from the field in the final 20 minutes.
The black and gold avenged its loss when the team hosted the Bonnies at the Siegel Center on Feb. 12, winning 67-64. Hyland powered the Rams in the win, scoring 22 points and playing 37 minutes.
No. 3 Davidson
The Rams lost to the Wildcats in their regular season finale on the road in North Carolina 65-57 on Feb. 27. Freshman forward Jamir Watkins led the Rams with 14 points and 10 rebounds in the loss, his first-career double-double.
The second half was the difference in the matchup, as Davidson shot 50% from the field and VCU shot 36% during the period.
No. 4 Saint Louis
The black and gold beat the Billikens at the Siegel Center 67-65 on Feb. 23, the Rams’ final win of the season. Freshman guard Ace Baldwin knocked down four free throws in the final minute to secure the win for the Rams. He scored 15 points, while Williams scored a team-high 16 points to pace VCU.
The Rams will play the winner of Dayton and Rhode Island on Friday at 3:30 p.m. at the Siegel Center. The game will be televised on NBC Sports Network.