VCU Men’s Basketball took the stage at the Barclays Center in the Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Tournament Quarterfinals. The #1 overall seed faced #8 Rhode Island on Friday in an anticipated rubber match between the Battle of the Rams.
A career performance by Marcus Santos-Silva had VCU fueled to finish the fight. However a turn of events and runs late by Rhode Island turned the game around in favor of the underdogs.
Issac Vann got VCU going from three in response to Rhody’s Fatts Russell mid-range jumper. Marcus Evans knocked in a floater before VCU’s offense went scoreless for nearly 3 minutes. Rhode Island continued attacking the paint in search of fouls against the HAVOC defense.
Marcus Santos-Silva rejuvenated the Rams with an And-1 basket at the rim before the first media timeout. Santos-Silva had the glass on lock collecting 6 rebounds within the first 5 minutes of the contest. Even with their paint advantage, VCU continued struggling to shoot the ball going 2-of-10 on their first 10 shot attempts.
Ice Ice Broken
The ice was broken by Malik Crowfield and Mike’l Simms coming off the VCU bench. Crowfield created space and connected from mid-range to keep VCU ahead. Simms leaned back and knocked down another putting the Rams up 3. Dana Tate was trapped by HAVOC and turned the ball over giving the Black & Gold more life.
VCU got the hot hand on offense suddenly to go 6-of-8 from the field. Three pointers from De’Riante Jenkins and Issac Vann had Barclays Center sounding like Siegel Center on a Friday afternoon. Rhody’s turnovers continued pilling up while VCU went up 26-18.
Evans Goes Down
Momentum was on VCU’s side until Marcus Evans went down with 6:42 left in the 1st half. Evans and Rhody’s Jeff Dowtin collided on a VCU fast break layup attempt by Evans. Evans crashed to the floor screaming in pain and holding on to his left knee. Coach Rhoades and the trainers rushed to Evans’ aid and escorted him back to the locker room.
Rhode Island took advantage of VCU’s distraught by going on a 6-0 scoring run. VCU had 3 turnovers that turned into points for Dowtin, Martin, and Russell. De’Riante Jenkins silenced the VCU sorrows with back to back three pointers getting the Rams back into the game. Threes were on the menu for the Black & Gold scoring 6 three pointers and Jenkins shooting 3-of-4 from that spot.
Feed #14! Wait…#34?
Santos-Silva collected his sixth double-double of the season in just 15 minutes of play. The VCU sophomore lead with 12 rebounds and 11 points in the first half. VCU went back into the locker room leading Rhode Island 37-34.
The 2nd half showed similarity to the first with Santos-Silva still in attack mode. Scoring an And-1 basket and still collecting rebounds, Santos-Silva put VCU on his back with Marcus Evans’ out for the game.
Rhody Being Pure Rhody
Rhode Island was not out of the game yet with a 7-0 swing led by 5 quick points from Dana Tate. The Rams took their first lead since being up 6-5 and went out ahead 49-47 after an And-1 by Cyril Langevine.
A true Battle of the Rams was in motion as the 2nd half continued. Dowtin used his quickness to get by HAVOC for baskets and keep Rhody out in front. VCU used trips to the free throw line to keep in sight of Rhode Island on the scoreboard.
Just as VCU started to make way, Dana Tate slammed home a second chance dunk to keep Rhody rolling 61-56. Rhode Island went further ahead with a 9-0 scoring run; Christion Thompson took advantage of the shooting foul by Santos-Silva on the three-point attempt. Thompson made all three free throw attempts.
Time To Fight Back
Trailing 70-62, VCU still had some fight left. Mike’l Simms connected on a much needed Black & Gold three ball. Jenkins followed that with a drive to the lane and a layup off the glass putting VCU within 3. Another scoring run for Rhode Island resulted in 9 straight points with the Rams closing in on the upset.
Fatts Russell fouled out of the game with 2:39 remaining. As VCU battled back, Dowtin heaved up a prayer from long range just before the shot clock expired. VCU got the game to a 3-point swing and had one more opportunity off an inbound play.
De’Riante Jenkins took a chance from three through some contact but couldn’t connect. VCU came up with the offensive rebound and found Simms who also could not convert. Thompson went to the free throw line to seal the deal for Rhode Island.
VCU’s 12 game winning streak came to an end in the A-10 Quarterfinals with #8 Rhode Island upsetting the Rams 75-50. Marcus Santos-Silva had a career high double-double of 26 points and 22 rebounds. De’Riante Jenkins had 13 points and 4 rebounds.
“Tough loss. Proud of our guys’s effort. We battled but we just didn’t get enough momentum there in the second half to get some things go our way, and we were fighting uphill.”
-VCU Head Coach, Mike Rhoades
Marcus Evans has a deep bone spur injury in his left knee and will be revaluated upon the team’s arrival back in Richmond. Next up for VCU Men’s Basketball: Selection Sunday.