In his third game back following a foot injury, freshman guard De’Riante Jenkins led the Rams with 15 points to knock George Mason University out of the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals 71-60 Friday evening in Pittsburgh.
“It’s really nice to have De’Riante back,” said coach Will Wade. “He was tremendous.”
PPG Paints Arena felt a lot like a home game at the Siegel Center Friday night, as RamNation traveled in superb fashion. At least 3,000 VCU supporters made their voices heard in the Steel City.
Following nine ties and 10 lead changes, VCU pulled away in the final six minutes of the game. Senior guards JeQuan Lewis and Doug Brooks fueled the late onslaught with a pair of three pointers each.
Lewis pointed to his team’s mindset as a cause for the late run.
“(We got) more aggressive,” Lewis said. “We were settling a lot for perimeter shots. We just ran plays to get us driving down hill.”
Lewis knocked down five shots in the second half en route to 13 points on the evening, following a dry spell for the Dixon, Tennessee native. He also recorded six assists and three steals.
Redshirt-senior forward Mo Alie-Cox went 0-4 from the floor and junior forward Justin Tillman recorded seven points. The struggles down low rendered it pivotal for the guards to knock down outside shots. Alie-Cox did, however, chip in a pair of vintage blocks, which came on consecutive possessions in the second half and fueled the late momentum shift.
VCU shot 57 percent from beyond the arc in the second half, largely thanks to Lewis (2-4), Brooks (2-3) and Jenkins (3-3).
The Black and Gold applied pressure early and often, attacking the Patriots in a full court man-to-man press for most of the night before dropping back into a half-court zone. The Rams forced 14 turnovers and created 20 points off the resulting opportunities.
“We talk about the last six minutes of the game a lot — we call it winning time,” said coach Will Wade. “We executed down the stretch. When we’re making threes like that the scoreboard really adds up.
“They threw a bunch of junk defenses at us and it took a second for us to adjust,” Wade said. “But once we figured it out, our guys were tremendous. I’m really proud of all of them.”
The Rams will face the winner of the George Washington University and University of Richmond game.
Sophia is a junior journalism major pursuing a minor in gender, sexuality and women’s studies. She enjoys writing about current events and sports, and hopes to one day be a sports reporter covering soccer, basketball and/or baseball. You can usually find Sophia drinking way too much coffee and laughing at her own jokes.
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Zach is a junior pursuing a dual degree in print journalism and English. A proud Norfolk-ian, he enjoys long walks on the beach, English literature of the romantic period and anything pertaining to Harry Potter or baseball. Zach is an avid Red Sox and Patriots fan who can usually be found working at the Student Media Center or running along the James.
Erin Edgerton, Staff Photographer