RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – VCU mens’ basketball coach Shaka Smart said his team played Rams-style basketball for almost the entire game versus the crosstown rival Richmond Spiders Thursday night at the Robins Center. But the No. 19 Rams blew a seven-point lead with just 42 seconds left to play. The Spiders late rally extended the game into overtime where the Spiders took control and won 86 – 74.
“I’m sure that was a really exciting game to watch, unfortunately it’s not the word I would use to describe it for us,” Smart said after the game. “It almost was a terrific road win because Richmond played really well all game. I thought our guys really fought and battled. For about 39 minutes and 20 seconds we really stayed to our principles, stayed aggressive and put ourselves in position to win but just flat out did not close out the game. Missed one too many free throws at the end, didn’t get enough stops. But most importantly, I give Richmond credit because it’s not like those were easy shots they were making. (Darien) Brothers’ three, (Kendall) Anthony made some huge shots. That’s what tied it up for them and in overtime I just felt like they had more energy than we did. It’s very, very tough for teams to respond after what happened to us in regulation. And we did not respond well enough, obviously. They beat us by 12 in overtime.”
With the Spiders down three, Brothers hit a three-pointer to tie the game with 1.5 seconds remaining. Some coaches choose to foul the other team when up by three points late in a game, forcing their opponent to shoot foul shots instead of giving them a chance to make a three pointer. Smart explained his decision not to foul in that situation.
“We have kind of a rule on that. When it’s under a certain amount of time, we’ll foul on purpose,” he said. “But there was 12 seconds, I believe, on the clock and the ref asked me ‘do you guys want to foul?’ because that’s the age old debate. Yes, if it would have been less time, we would have fouled, but again the way Richmond was chopping that lead down very quickly and if you foul with 12 seconds, now they’re going to foul you and we had missed some free throws. It’s a percentage game. Obviously in retrospect, we should have fouled but we didn’t.”
Smart said Thursday’s loss reminded him of the Rams loss last season to former Colonial Athletic Association rival George Mason.
“We lost on a buzzer beater up there. It was a similar situation,” he said. “We had won a lot of games in a row, we were going on the road to a hostile environment, we played really well for the majority of the game, we had a lead in the last few minutes of the game, we made some free throws but we did not make them all and missed just enough to give them that sliver of opportunity. Last year George Mason and tonight Richmond capitalized on it, made some great plays. I give Coach Mooney and his staff a lot of credit. They kept attacking and obviously the players stepped up.”
The loss snaps VCU’s 13-game winning streak. VCU and Richmond are scheduled to play again on March 6 at the VCU Siegel Center. The Rams play again tomorrow night at home against La Salle.