Friday night on the hardwood known as the Siegel Center was an opportunity that VCU Men’s Basketball awaited for patiently. #22 Rhode Island made the trip to Broad Street with a Top 25 ranking, an unbeaten record in Atlantic 10 Play at 10-0 and a victory worthy of an NCAA Resume if the Rams could pull it off at home.
Rhode Island was victorious the last time this Battle of the Rams took place and hoisted the A-10 Men’s Basketball Championship along with the automatic at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament back in March. The rematch in early February had similarity with the result remaining the same.
The Hype Was Real
The game matched the electricity in the building after the tip-off. VCU stumbled early with a turnover that was finished by Andre Berry of Rhode Island. E.C. Matthews started well for the visitors with his opening shot connecting from mid-range. Sean Mobley and Justin Tillman connected on an assist into a layup for the Fro to put VCU on the board.
After Jared Terrell made it 7-2 Rhody from downtown, the visiting herd had a two-minute cold spell on offense. During this, the Black & Gold countered with a 6-0 scoring swing to increase the voltage at the Stu. Sean Mobley got things started on an And-1 basket from close range and molded that into a 3 point play from the free throw line. Tillman added another 3 Ball from long range as the birthday boy put VCU ahead 7-5 just before the first media timeout.
Matthews and company broke free as Rhode Island started scoring in bunches. Rhody continued their aggressive style of offense while controlling the tempo. Issac Vann and Mike’l Simms laid down some counter baskets on the other end to keep VCU within striking distance.
Both teams saw the green light on offense as the 1st half continued. Mobley hit the money ball from three to keep the Animal pleased. The crowd quickly responded loudly after Tillman connected on an And-1 fadeaway jumper that found it’s way into the net. Andre Berry was called for his 2nd personal foul and the Fro tied the game at 22-22 from the line.
Fatts Russell took the air out of the building with just seconds on the shot clock and buried an uncontested three for Rhode Island. Cyril Langevine made things extra sweet on the next trip with a Rhode Island two-hand slam in the open lane. Before the visitors got too excited, Malik Crowfield nailed a much needed three for VCU.
Sean Mobley: 3 Point Specialist
With just over 5 minutes left in the 1st, Justin Tillman picked up his 2nd personal foul of the contest and went to the VCU bench. Terrell quickly took advantage with another three to put Rhode Island near a double-digit lead. That was until Sean Mobley connected on two consecutive three-pointers to keep the contest within 3 points.
And if that wasn’t enough for the home crowd, Mobley would strike gold from three once again to make three consecutive jays. Mobley was the answer VCU was looking for as he collected 15 first-half points and went 4-for-4 beyond the arc. As a team, VCU went 6-of-13 from the three-point spot.
Battle Scars Aplenty
In the final moments of the half, Jonathan Williams went down in agony on a block attempt and held his left ankle severely. Coach Rhoades quickly rushed over to check on his senior leader while everyone in attendance turned silent. After a few minutes, Williams was able to get up on his feet and walk on his own with minimal assistance to the back of the arena.
Rhode Island held a 41-38 edge over VCU upon halftime. Jared Terrell and Justin Tillman went to war and collected 12 points each. VCU coughed up 8 turnovers while turning 5 turnovers by Rhody into 12 points. Rhode Island held a 23-17 rebounding advantage with 9 of those being offensive rebounds.
Buckets On Buckets On Buckets
The offense was still clicking in favor of Rhode Island early in the 2nd half. Matthews rebounded a missed shot by Terrell and cashed that in for two. The duo of Jenkins and Tillman held the hot hands for VCU on the other end, however, Rhode Island still held the advantage on the glass. Rhody went 4-of-6 in the opening minutes of the half including a three-point pointer that put the visitors up 7 points.
That lead would hit double digits at 54-45 after a successful trip to the free throw line for Matthews. Jenkins responded on the opposite end with a Euro layup followed by an assist to Marcus Santos-Silva for the VCU bucket. Cheers turned into jeers inside the Stu as Sean Mobley was whistled for his 3rd personal foul of the game.
A Productive Artillery
Marcus Santos-Silva and Mike’l Simms provided some firepower from the VCU bench. After Simms connected on a three, Santos-Silva collected an offensive rebound that turned into a much needed And-1 bucket for the Black & Gold. Rhode Island went quiet for a few possessions but quickly turned their offense back on late in the 2nd half.
While some Rhody’s starters took a rest, Langevine and Russell continued leading the way off the bench. Langevine kept his hands on the ball during the rebounding battle and finished the game with a double-double of 18 rebounds and 12 points. Russell kept lighting VCU from deep with the visitors not letting up offensively.
Rhody Remains Perfect
When all hope seemed lost, Justin Tillman sent Rhode Island to the pit of misery. The birthday Fro soared through the air and laid waste to the rim on a powerful one-hand slam. On the other end, Tillman denied Dowtin with a block that brought the Siegel Center off life support and back into the game.
As the clock kept rolling, the deficit was too much to overcome. Rhode Island remained the aggressor with VCU’s offense going scoreless for almost 3 minutes and finished the job with an 81-68 win over VCU at the Siegel Center. Justin Tillman led the Rams with 22 points and 6 rebounds while Sean Mobley was the second Ram in double figures with 15 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Final Stat-Line & Next Up
Leading Rhode Island in victory was E.C. Matthews with 18 points and 5 rebounds. Jared Terrell had 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists in 34 minutes of play. The Rams had 4 individual players in double-figures. Inside the paint, Rhody dominated with a 47-31 rebounding advantage and 34 points in the paint.
For the home herd, VCU went 41% from the field and 33% from downtown. The Rams had 14 turnovers against Rhody and had 12 points from the bench. HAVOC had 5 blocks and 5 steals on the night.
Coming up for VCU Men’s Basketball is the rematch of the Black & Blue Classic against Richmond. The second clash of cross-town rivals happens on Wednesday, February 7th at 9 PM at the Robins Center on CBS Sports Network. Rhode Island returns home to face Davidson on Friday, February 9th in their next Atlantic 10 matchup.