After a 2 game business trip in Philadelphia, VCU Men’s Basketball returned home with more work to be done against Duquesne. The Dukes entered the Siegel Center perfect in Atlantic 10 play at 3-0 and tied with Rhode Island for first place. A troubling 1st transformed into a sucker punch of a 2nd half by VCU that rattled Duquesne to their first conference defeat on the road.
A Rocky Start
The action quickly went off-script before the first media timeout took place. Issac Vann started VCU’s offense after tip-off with a quick layup in a matter of seconds. Mike Lewis II responded from the three-point spot to get Duquesne started on offense. Malik Crowfield was left wide open for a corner pocket VCU three ball that hit the bottom of the net.
Eric Williams Jr. kept the Dukes ahead after hitting the team’s second consecutive three-pointer. In transition, Williams was whistled for a technical foul to the surprise of Duquesne head coach Keith Dambrot; Justin Tillman went to the free throw line but was unsuccessful in both attempts.
Things would get worse for Duquesne just before the media timeout as Tydus Verhoeven would be whistled for his second personal foul. During this 3 minute span, VCU was struggling with early turnovers and shot selection going 1-for-11 as a team.
VCU Was Looking For Something…
While Mike Lewis continued producing from three for Duquesne, Vann kept the Rams in the game with his tenacity. The Vannimal gave VCU a huge lift on an And-1 layup that forced Chas Brown to receive his second personal foul. After the 3 Point Play from the line, VCU was just 4 points behind the Dukes.
Duquesne’s duo of Lewis and Williams continued flourishing from long range. The visitors did a good job with ball control to find one of these men open on the perimeter. As their lead grew, VCU looked lost defensively while searching for answers on offense.
Siegel Center started to get back into the groove thanks to some key plays. Jonathan Williams made a great feed to Vann on the run for a much-needed layup. De’Riante Jenkins amplified the noise on VCU’s second layup in hopes of getting a scoring run up and operational. That was short lived thanks to Tarin Smith of Duquesne hitting the And-1 after Vann was called for the blocking foul under the basket.
Hot Shooting From the Dukes
Cheers quickly turned into boos inside the Siegel Center as Smith made it 25-18 in favor of Duquesne. Sloppy basketball was back on display for VCU with more turnovers and bad decision making. Justin Tillman had a rough opening shift with 0 points in 14 minutes of play.
VCU’s only true advantage during the first half was in rebounding. The Rams muscled their way to a 26-14 rebounding hold off the glass but struggled shooting 33% from the field. HAVOC did cause some ruckus late in the 1st with a ten-second violation that turned into a bucket for Lewis Djonkam.
Mike Lewis led Duquesne with 14 points that included going 4-of-5 from three in the 1st half. Williams added an extra 12 as the Dukes held a 36-28 lead over VCU at the half-time buzzer. The three ball was Duquesne’s deadliest weapon at 44% and their defense forcing 9 VCU turnovers.
Black & Gold Rewarded
Chas Brown did not have the 2nd half he was looking for as the Baltimore native collected his 4th personal foul. With just over 18 minutes remaining, Brown was unsuccessful in a steal attempt as he collided with Johnny Williams.
Turnovers appeared once again for VCU and caused mischief for the Rams and the fans. Early hiccups caused a change in possession and Siegel groaned in agony after De’Riante Jenkins made a costly traveling violation before the breakaway layup attempt.
VCU would finally hit paydirt in the form of a 7-0 scoring splurge in 50 seconds. After Justin Tillman hit his first basket on the And-1 opportunity, Mike’l Simms collected a steal & score combo. Johnny Williams would bring the home crowd back into the game with a basket that would cut the score to 4 points.
Nooo…Duquesne Wasn’t Ready!
As Vann & Williams urged their home base to keep the noises at high levels, the crowd erupted more with the news of Jordan Robinson whistled for his 4th personal foul. Air Johnny leaped into the air on a fadeaway jumper that would make a single-possession game.
HAVOC was wide awake and Duquesne wasn’t ready. The Dukes started to unravel while feeling all of VCU’s defensive pressure. Coach Dambrot had to burn a timeout to keep possession on an inbound as a fired up Sean Mobley did his job defending it. Mobley was welcomed back to VCU’s bench with a deserved standing ovation by those in attendance.
Scoring for both squads started to bust pipes with the wind chill. Lewis and Williams of Duquesne could not get things going on offense and VCU started to cool off after regaining ground. Chas Brown’s night came to a close early after receiving his 5th personal foul with 11:30 remaining.
Lewis & The Dukes Wasn’t Done Yet
In an instant, Mike Lewis knocked the air right out of the Stu with a 3 Ball that turned into a 4 point play after the foul by Vann. Jenkins had a response from downtown seconds later to tie the contest at 46-46. The golden floodgates were open for VCU as Mike’l Simms knocked down a go-ahead three-pointer to the delight of the Rams.
Tillman finally got his scoring going in the 2nd half. The Fro connected on a floater through contact to get the And-1 and an old-fashioned 3 point play from the line. The offense came in threes with Mobley and Jenkins knocking back to back threes for the Black & Gold. Pandemonium all around the court was had when VCU would push their advantage into double digits.
Duquesne was far from tapping out. With 2 players fouled out of the contest, Dukes dug deep to create something against the grain. Rene Castro-Caneddy knocked down the And-1 basket after Simms made contact on the shot; his free throw was good to make the score 68-61 in favor of VCU with 3:00 remaining.
What A Turnaround
Physicality rose on the floor until the final buzzer. Both teams went at each other in the final minutes; at one instance VCU head coach Mike Rhoads had to pull De’Riante Jenkins away in order to keep him from being whistled. Tillman flexed his muscle on tangle for a jump ball as he regained possession for the Rams.
Duquesne’s bench got more crowded after Tydus Verhoeven became the third Duke to foul out of the contest. Verhoeven committed a blocking foul on Williams during a layup attempt and Williams cashed in at the line making both attempts.
At the end of regulation, VCU erased a 13 point deficit at halftime with a 50 point production in the 2nd to defeat Duquesne 78-67. Jonathan Williams was the alpha Ram against the Dukes with 21 points and 4 rebounds. Williams went 9-of-12 from the free throw line.
Stats & A Timeline
Justin Tillman collected his sixth consecutive double-double performance of 17 rebounds and 10 points. Issac Vann had 15 points and De’Riante Jenkins added 12 to be the fourth Ram in double figures. VCU had 14 assists as a team and went 45% from the field. This was the first time in 12 games since Duquesne was outrebounded by their opponent. VCU won the rebounding war 50-31.
Atlantic 10’s reigning Rookie of the Week in Eric Williams Jr scored 15 points and collected 5 rebounds. Mike Lewis II had a team-high 23 points for Duquesne that included 6 three-pointers. Duquesne had 4 Dukes finishing in double-figures.
With this result, VCU and Duquesne move into a 2nd place tie at 3-1 in the Atlantic 10. The Rams hold the tie-breaker over the Dukes and stay one game behind Rhode Island. Rhody defeated Saint Louis to remain unbeaten at 4-0 in 1st place.
Up next for VCU Men’s Basketball is a trip to Ohio on Friday, January 12th to face Dayton. That Atlantic 10 conference clash will begin at 7 PM on ESPN 2. Duquesne returns home to face La Salle.