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A full day has gone by and it’s time to rehash the late-night events that took place at VCU Thursday night.
College coaches and players are all about moving forward, with an on-to-the-next-one, forget-about-the-last-one mentality, but VCU’s epic bout with St. Joseph’s deserves some looking back on.
This was the kind of game that sends chills down your spine then forces you to want to hug someone afterward.
When VCU went up by 12 with 9:14 left in the first half, it seemed as if this was going to be another home blowout. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that either of these teams could’ve led by that much at any point.
St. Joseph’s cut into the VCU lead, leaving it to just six points at the half. Other than VCU point guard Darius Theus – who totaled 12 points, four assists and two steals at the half – nobody was playing their best basketball.
But what happened in the second half Thursday night won’t soon be forgotten.
For the better part of the second half, VCU’s lead teetered from as high as six points to as low as one point. From the 8:19 mark to the 5:58 mark, hot-shooting Langston Galloway tied the game on two separate occasions with a pair of three-pointers.
Then, with 4:45 left in the game, St. Joseph’s took the lead. Galloway buried his fifth 3-pointer of the night, this one sucking the life right out of the Siegel Center, which had been incessantly vibrant up to that point.
VCU regained the lead, but Carl Jones got it back on a 3-pointer with just 1:28 left on the clock. St. Joseph held the lead, which was extended to four points with 28 seconds left thanks to a pair of free throws by C.J. Aiken.
Small groups, in what had been on of the loudest crowds I’ve heard at the Siegel Center, began to head for the exits. It was a mistake.
Theus, who had been so led VCU up to that point, missed a 3-pointer and two freebies at the line on the next possession. Rob Brandenberg regained possession on Theus’s second miss but threw up an ugly turnaround shot that missed. This is where the basketball gods began to smile down on VCU. St. Joseph’s Chris Wilson traveled after grabbing the rebound, giving VCU the ball back with 14 seconds to go.
Now, here’s Exhibit A of what made this game so ridiculous. There were 14 seconds left in the game, and up to that point Troy Daniels was having one of the worst shooting night’s a guy like him can have. He’d gone 0-for-8 from behind the three-point line and 0-for-9 from the floor. So naturally, as this game would not of had it any other way, he immediately buries a 3-pointer off the inbounds bringing VCU within one and bringing the Siegel Center back to life.
What happened in the next series of events in where my game notes start to look like I was angry at my notebook.
Brandenberg fouled Ronald Roberts, who hit one free throw, setting VCU up with the ball, down two with 13 seconds left, with a chance to tie or win the game.
Theus, in all his clutch glory, flew down the court and caught the Hawks napping on defense, easily taking the ball to the basket for a layup to tie the game with 6.8 on the game clock.
“They weren’t really set,” Theus later said, “so we just pushed it.”
Rather than playing conservative defense on the final possession of regulation in order to avoid a foul, VCU went at St. Joseph’s as it had all night, pressuring the ball all the way up the court. The Hawks never got a shot off.
The 29th consecutive sellout on hand had gone from silence to deafening, all in less than 30 seconds.
“OOOOOVERTIME,” P.A. announcer Hunter Elliott’s voice echoed throughout the building.
St. Joseph’s had lost its chance. The chance to gain a rare kind of win. The kind that only two teams have accomplished since the start of last season. A win in the unfriendly confines of VCU’s home court, but perhaps most importantly, a win over a top 25 team.
With the Siegel Center as juiced as it was all night, VCU outscored St. Joseph’s 12-6 in the overtime period, capturing its 12th straight victory.
“We don’t win this game tonight if it wasn’t for a phenomenal crowd,” said VCU head coach Shaka Smart, who notched his 99th win as a head coach.
This game had everything a college basketball fan could hope for: an alley oop dunk, a no-look, over-the-shoulder pass to Theus from Juvonte Reddic that made SportsCenter’s top plays, a raucous crowd and two mascots battling for its attention and a rare four-point play by Treveon Graham in overtime.
It had all the ingredients for a great college basketball game. So much so that Smart had a message for VCU fans the next morning.
All in all, it was just another night of college basketball, another part of a season with a long road ahead. For VCU, indeed it’s on to the next one – a road game at Duquesne in the Steel City.
Regardless, this one won’t be forgotten.