‘This was more personal’: Richmond hijacks VCU’s VCU NCAA tournament hopes

Sophomore Mikeal Brown-Jones hangs his head in defeat in the last minutes of VCU’s first and last Atlantic 10 tournament game verses Richmond on Thursday. Photo by Kaitlyn Fulmore

Arrick Wilson, Sports Editor

The VCU men’s basketball program lost against the Richmond Spiders in the Atlantic 10 conference tournament quarterfinals, on Friday in Washington, D.C. at the Capital One Arena.

Richmond graduate guard Jacob Gilyard said this win was key in the Richmond rivalry in the post-game press conference.

“They embarrassed us last time we played them. At the end of the day, to knock VCU off from the tournament — special one for us,” Gilyard said. “This was more personal about the last game. You know what they did to us.”

Teams across America are selected for the NCAA March Madness tournament following an evaluation of their performance in the regular season and conference tournaments. Of the field of 68 teams, 32 are automatic, while 36 are at-large, according to sportingnews.com.

This loss ended the Rams’ at-large National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, tournament bid. The black and gold earned a bid in the National Invitation Tournament, or NIT, which is another postseason tournament.

Gilyard led the Spiders with a season-high of 32 points off of seven three-pointers, along with three assists. Junior forward Tyler Burton had 14 points and eight rebounds, while graduate forward Nathan Cayo had 11 points.

The Kansas City, Missouri native carried the scoring load for the Spiders while playing 40 minutes and shooting 58% from the three-point line. Richmond head coach Chris Mooney said Gilyard’s notable performance was outstanding.

“Jacob [Gilyard] was incredible. One of the great performances by a Richmond guard, and he was just tremendous today,” Mooney said.

For the Rams, senior forward Vince Williams Jr. led with 18 points and nine rebounds, and senior guard KeShawn Curry additionally added 14 points. Sophomore guard Adrian “Ace” Baldwin Jr. contributed 12 points and seven assists for the black and gold.

The rebounding game was tied 28-28, but the Spiders forced the Rams to have 16 turnovers. VCU head coach Mike Rhoades said poor stats affected the black and gold from winning.

“Richmond had a lot to do with it, but I thought today we just, really at times, just kicked ourselves with turnovers and not defending the three-point line,” Rhoades said. “It was ragged at times.”

The Spiders led the Rams 37-29 at halftime. At the beginning of the first half, the Spiders gained the lead by going on an early 6-0 run. With 12 minutes left in the first half, the Rams went on a 7-0 run taking the lead right back from the Spiders. Both teams continued to trade runs, before the Spider overtook the lead at the end of the first half.

“We played with tremendous energy and passion. We played physically,” Mooney said. “I thought our defense was really terrific. Forced turnovers. Came up with loose balls. Rebounded the ball.”

VCU Coach Rhoades said the Richmond Spiders executed with quickness in the first half, gaining atmosphere at the Capital One Arena.

“I thought, you know they [Richmond] had some great momentum in the first half that got them going and even with older guys that creates confidence, and credit to them,” Rhoades said.

In the second half, the Richmond Spiders ran away with the game, executing on both sides of the court. The Spiders ended the game shooting 47.4% from the three-point line while shooting 81.3% from the free-throw line with 32 attempts from the stripe. 

The Rams shot 36.4% from the three-point line and 66.7% from the free-throw line. VCU senior guard KeShawn Curry said his team did not perform well.

“We were just trying to create things, and us trying to create plays, we were turning the ball over, not being strong with the ball,” Curry said. “Getting in the lane, losing the ball, not executing how coach wanted us to.”

The Rams will continue onto the postseason tournament with an NIT bid. As for now, the Rams will play in the first round of the NIT against Princeton University. 

“We wanted to be here all weekend. But now we just, like coach said in the locker room, we just got to sit and wait and see what happens next,” Curry said. 

The Rams will host the first round NIT home game against the Princeton Tigers tomorrow at 7 p.m., at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. For ticket information, visit vcuathletics.com. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

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