PITTSBURGH -- In a game fitting of their intra-city rivalry, the VCU Rams and Richmond Spiders traded big shot after big shot and the Rams made more in overtime as they won 87-77 to advance to the A-10 title game on Sunday.
Former St. Christopher's standout Nick Sherod put the Spiders ahead by 3 with 36.3 seconds left in regulation, but Rams senior JeQuan Lewis countered with a 3 of his own to tie the game at 71 after regulation. Lewis finished with 18 points to lead VCU.
"Coach told me if I get it, just shoot it" Lewis said. "I had to shoot it in my mind, regardless."
"It came down to us making big stops when we needed to and JeQuan making a big play" said VCU senior forward Mo Alie-Cox.
"Those are the moments you dream about growing up" said Sherod who finished with 15 points. "Lewis made a big shot and unfortunately, we're on the wrong side of March Madness."
In the overtime, it was all Rams as they outscored Richmond 16-6 behind baskets from Alie-Cox (15 points, 9 rebounds) and Justin Tillman (11 points, 14 rebounds). VCU outscored Richmond 56-30 in the paint as the Rams extended their winning streak over UR to 6 in a row.
"We do strength and conditioning for overtime, all the time" said Alie-Cox. "You could kind of see we were taking their will, little by little. We're built for situations like this."
"Once we got to overtime we felt pretty good about things" said VCU head coach Will Wade. "I was proud of our guys. We didn't play our best, but when it counted, we were able to get that thing in the paint and made some winning plays."
VCU has made the A-10 final in each of the six years they have been in the conference, and this will be their 7th straight title game appearance dating back to their final year in the CAA. They will face a Rhode Island team that beat them i69-59 n Kingston on February 25th, and one that poses a much different challenge than the Spiders did on Saturday.
"It will be a tractor pull" Wade said using one of his favorite euphemisms for physical games. "Hopefully they (referees) will let us play. We have to rebound better and finish around the rim."
"Player for player, I feel that we match up really well against them" Lewis said. "It's all about who wants it more."
Samir Dougty had 17 points for VCU as the Ram bench outscored their Spider counterparts 35-2.
Richmond was led by freshman De'Monte Buckingham (Henrico H.S.) with 26 points, and got another 13 from Khwan Fore. Seniors ShawnDre' Jones and T.J. Cline scored 11 and 10 points respectively in what could be their final game for the Spiders. Richmond is hoping for a spot in the NIT when that bracket is announced Sunday night.
"We hope that we can sneak our way in there" Buckingham said. "It's hard to see our seniors like this. They've worked so hard for what we know they wanted to accomplish."
"Really proud of my guys and how hard and well we played" said Spiders head coach Chris Mooney. "Couldn't be more proud."