Going dancing: VCU wins A-10 and advances to NCAA Tournament

VCU players hold the Atlantic 10 trophy after winning the final game against the University of Dayton on Sunday, March 13. Photo by Alessandro Latour

Arrick Wilson, Sports Editor

The VCU men’s basketball program won the Atlantic 10 tournament at the Barclays Center in New York.

VCU head coach Mike Rhoades said he was proud of his team for bringing a championship to Richmond.

“I thought so many guys just made winning plays to win a championship,” Rhoades said. “Talk about being tough in our program, and celebrating each other’s success.”

The black and gold are going into the “big dance,” or NCAA tournament, ranked No. 12, playing St. Mary’s College of California, which is ranked No. 5 in the tournament.

“We were five and four and everybody counted us out. How you like us now?” Rhoades said in a live television interview with CBS.

The black and gold are prepared to go against anyone, according to VCU junior guard Adrian “Ace” Baldwin Jr.

“We are a type of team that’s going to make a run. We not scared of nobody,” Baldwin said in a live television interview with CBS. “We prepared for anybody.”

On Thursday, March 9, the quarterfinal game, the Rams faced off against the No. 8 ranked Davidson College Wildcats and won, 71-53. 

VCU redshirt sophomore Jamir Watkins, Baldwin and senior forward David Shriver all led the Rams with 11 points. 

Davidson junior guard Grant Huffman and redshirt junior David Skogman both led the Wildcats with 10 points.

This was a successful defensive game for VCU, having 10 blocked shots and holding the Wildcats to just 37% from the field. 

Having the win was a great feeling for the team, and the black and gold were happy to advance to the next round of the tournament, Rhoades said.

“We were fortunate to win the game,” Rhoades said. “We appreciate all our fans being out here, we’re excited to move on.”

Baldwin entered the tournament as the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, according to VCU Athletics. The black and gold just wanted to come out and win the first game, according to Baldwin.

“It felt great. The first game, we just wanted to make a statement,” Baldwin said.

VCU shot a season-high of 57.4% from the field and never trailed in the game, according to VCU Athletics

On Saturday, March 11, the semi-final game, the Rams faced off against the No. 4 ranked St. Louis University’s Billikens and won, 90-78. 

In this game, the black and gold dominated on both sides of the ball, while scoring 90 points for the first time since Dec. 17, according to VCU Athletics.

VCU sophomore guard Jayden Nunn led the black and gold with a game-high of 18 points and four other Rams scored in double-digits. Making the correct reads and plays was why multiple players scored in the game, Rhoades said. 

“Five guys got double figures because everybody on the team was passing the ball and making the right play,” Rhoades said.

In the first half, St. Louis had momentum early with a 5-0 start, but this was abruptly ended when VCU caught fire. The black and gold would lead from that point on.

At the end of the first half, VCU led St. Louis, 44-39. The black and gold came out hot to start the second half, going on a 24-5 run. Leading this hot start was Nunn. Staying concentrated to be successful is something the team tries to do, Nunn said.

“We just gotta stay focused and play our best game, every team,” Nunn said.

The win against St. Louis was impressive for the year, Rhoades said.

“I thought we just did a really good job after the first four minutes of game playing with more pace,” Rhoades said. “It was one of our better games for sure.”

On Sunday, March 12, the final game, the Rams defeated the No. 2 ranked Dayton Flyers and won, 68-56. 

Baldwin led the black and gold with 16 points and seven assists, while sophomore forward Jalen DeLoach had 13 points and 10 rebounds. 

Dayton sophomore forward DaRon Holmes II led all scorers with 28 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks. 

At the end of the first half, Dayton led VCU, 36-30. Dayton had a good start to the game, while VCU struggled to score, shooting below 40% from the field. 

The black and gold turned this start around, shooting nearly 60% from the field in the second half. The team puts a big emphasis on staying strong while down, Baldwin said. 

“Coach always — he big on adversity and we just was fighting adversity,” Baldwin said. “We ain’t give in.”

The black and gold went on a late 10-2 run to gain the lead and stayed in the driver seat for the rest of the game. Not only did the Rams hit their cues on offense, but defensively the black and gold did not let the Flyers score a field goal for the remaining 10 minutes of game.

“The last 10 minutes of the game we went to try to win a championship,” Rhoades said. “We made plays. We had aggressiveness. We had toughness — and our defense showed up.”

The Rams will head to the MVP Arena in Albany, New York on Friday, March 18, to play against the St. Mary’s College of California Gaels.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply