Last ride: VCU seniors celebrate careers, Rams defeat George Mason 72-66

VCU senior guard KeShawn Curry holds his senior jersey plaque to the crowd before the victory against George Mason on Feb. 23. Photos by Kaitlyn Fulmore

Arrick Wilson, Sports Editor

Lights dimmed in the “Stu” as cheers, cries and laughter filled the arena; two VCU seniors walked to the center of the court, met with applause and chants from the VCU fans. The wave of gold and black brightened the court as the game began. 

It’s the last hurrah for seniors Vince Williams Jr. and KeShawn Curry, who were honored for their continuance with the program over the years. The VCU men’s basketball program defeated the George Mason Patriots 72-66 at the Stuart C. Siegel Center on Wednesday, Feb. 23.

Head coach Mike Rhoades said he was proud with the overall turnout of the game.

“Senior night — emotional. I thought we got off to a great start, then relaxed too much. And George Mason’s a good team, they got guys that made plays today,” Rhoades said. “It’s a typical game in the A-10, typical VCU, George Mason game, so I’m glad we came out on top.”

The Rams started the game by scoring 10 points while holding the Patriots to zero. The black and gold’s havoc defense translated to offense. However, the Patriots went on a 9-0 run, holding off the Rams from scoring for around two minutes. Both teams traded blows and made successful runs to compete in the half.

The half ended with the Rams on top, 39-34. Senior guard KeShawn Curry and freshman guard Jayden Nunn both lead the Rams with 11 points.

Graduate forward D’Shawn Schwartz led the Patriots with 14 points and sophomore forward Otis Frazier III chipped in six points for the Patriots at the half.

The Rams struggled during the start of the second half, allowing the Patriots back in the game, who took the lead with five minutes in the half. The black and gold pounced back into the game, creating a 16-0 run for four minutes, gaining the lead and cruising to the win. 

Sophomore guard Adrian “Ace” Baldwin Jr. guided the Rams to victory, scoring 14 points in the second half. Baldwin said his teammates helped him gain momentum in the second half.

“First half, I wasn’t really making shots, so I was just trying to get my other teammates shots. I want to thank coach and my teammates for just trusting me, believing in me, put the ball in my hands,” Baldwin said. “I knew my number was gonna get called — just be ready at the time.” 

Baldwin had a big night overall for the Rams, leading with 18 points, seven rebounds, six steals and four assists. Sophomore forward Mikeal Brown-Jones also had a career-high with 15 points. The forward also gathered seven rebounds, along with freshman guard Jayden Nunn scoring 13 points. 

Brown-Jones had another great performance coming off the bench for the Rams. He said he was focused on making an impact for his team.

“Staying ready, as much as I possibly can. I know that my time gone come eventually so I just rather be a great teammate to these guys. You know, do everything I can to win games,” Brown-Jones said. 

Schwartz led the Patriots with 22 points and junior forward Josh Oduro also had 13 points and seven rebounds.

Senior forward Vince Williams Jr.

Since making it to Broad Street, senior forward Vince Williams Jr. has become one of the Rams’ top scorers over the last two years. Williams ​​was named third team All-Atlantic 10 conference in 2021, with a career-high of 10.6 points per game, the second highest on the team in 2021, according to VCU Athletics. Williams said he enjoyed his senior night and getting the win in the “Stu.”

“[I] just felt like I was back in high school all over again, to be honest. It was good all around. My teammates supported me and the coaches emphasized that we go out and get this win for the seniors tonight,” Williams said during an interview with VCU’s Ram Radio broadcast team.

One of Williams’ greatest performances was against longtime rival University of Richmond on Jan. 29, where the forward had a stat line of 22 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and a dagger three-pointer. For this performance, Williams was named the A-10 Men’s Basketball Player of the Week for the games played from Jan. 24-30. Williams said he believes the team is getting into the groove of playing, winning seven out of the eight games in the month of February, according to VCU Athletics.  

“I feel like we just all stick together, so I wouldn’t say we were peaking. I feel like we are finally figuring ourselves out as a team, just because now we can actually trust each other,” Williams said. 

Senior guard KeShawn Curry

Senior guard KeShawn Curry came to VCU by way of Virginia’s Fork Union Military Academy. Curry boasted up a career-high of 28 points in a win against Rhode Island on Feb. 8. In a post-game conference, Curry said that even through adversity during his tenure as a Ram, he has enjoyed his last season. 

“My career didn’t go how I wanted to. I was hurt a lot, lot of situations came up, but I’m enjoying my senior year,” Curry said. “This is favorite — my favorite year, playing with my guys, playing with my friends — this is probably my favorite year, having a lot of fun.”

Curry has had an immediate impact over the years, currently averaging 10.2 points, the third most for the program this season, according to VCU Athletics. Curry said looking forward to the postseason, the Rams are looking to win much as possible. 

“We know late February you gotta win games. So we just in the mindset of finished the season,  winning out in every game again,” Curry said. “Getting the most wins — to ensure that we will, grab a nice spot in A-10 tournament and possibly get to the dance [NCAA tournament].”

Both players could possibly stay one more year, like graduate forward Levi Stockard III. Stockard used another year of eligibility this season, granted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA. The NCAA allowed an extra year of eligibility for all winter athletes in Division I sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to ESPN

Both Williams and Curry have created a friendship that dates back to when they both committed to VCU just hours apart. Williams said his friendship with Curry has extended, leading them to stay together throughout the years.  

“Basically when we got here to campus, we really clicked then. And after that, we just got to know each other more,” Williams said. “KeShawn committed right before me. So I think a couple of hours before me, but I think we got it done — so we really just stuck together.”

Head coach Mike Rhoades said the effect of Williams and Curry is seen, as the team has been successful this season.

“The impact on the success of our team this year, just tells you a lot about their journey and their two great young men, from two great families. And they’ve really improved since they’ve been here and their best year right now is their senior year,” Rhoades said.

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