Men’s basketball (15-12, 7-7 A-10) suffered its most adverse stretch of the 2017-18 season last week with a pair of losses in pivotal conference matchups. The Black and Gold fell to the Davidson College Flyers (15-10, 10-4 A-10) 74-63 on Wednesday and traveled to Foggy Bottom, D.C. on Saturday where the Rams were soundly defeated by The George Washington University (12-15, 5-9 A-10) 80-56.
The first half proved disastrous for the Rams against GW, with a complete lack of ability to get the ball inside for senior forward Justin Tillman, who only scored three points in the entire first half.
VCU made four of six free throws against a GW team with the fourth highest fouls-per-game average in the NCAA. The Rams scored a mere 27 points in the first half.
The Colonials managed 20 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 blocks, which somewhat accounted for the major deficit. Free throws, something the Rams have struggled with in many games now, had a significant impact for George Washington. The Colonials scored 10 points off a 91 percent shooting mark from the charity stripe.
Going into the half down 45-27, coach Mike Rhoades needed the speech of a lifetime to manage a comeback.
Tillman did manage some movement on the block in the second half, and scored another eight points in the second half in a poor showing relative to his recent work.
GW senior guards Yuta Watanabe and Terry Nolan Jr. put up 41 points 11 rebounds combined.
The 9-4 Davidson Wildcats entered the Siegel Center looking for a chance to boost their A-10 record and get a step ahead of the Black and Gold, who were one rank behind Davidson going into the game.
VCU kept pace with the Wildcats in two and three-point shooting, but, careless mistakes led to 13 fouls, eight of which came from freshman guard Sean Mobley and sophomore wing De’Riante Jenkins. Davidson’s stellar 93.3 percent shooting from the line was a killer for the Rams.
Jenkins put forth a strong showing in the second half with 19 points and 70 percent shooting from the field. Tillman had a steady game with 21 points and eight rebounds.
Senior forward Peyton Aldridge was the showstopper for Davidson with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Davidson pulled away in the waning moments, primarily on the strength of their free throw shooting.
“You’re running, you think you are where you are…and then you’re not. That’s, you hear me use this word a lot, ‘awareness.’ You got to have better basketball awareness. And we didn’t have that on some of our shots,” Rhoades said.
Jenkins kept it simple in his explanation of the major letdown.
“They didn’t do nothing spectacular, we just missed shots. And we tried to stay with it, but they went on a run. Versus a good team like that, we got to weather the storm and we didn’t do that tonight,” Jenkins said.
The Rams travel northeast Wednesday to play the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (11-16, 4-10 A-10). VCU will host St. Bonaventure University (20-6, 10-4) on Saturday, Feb. 24 for the second to last home game of the season. St. Bonaventure recently defeated the No. 16 University of Rhode Island Rams and snapped the longest active NCAA & A-10 win streak.
Daniel Puryear, contributing writer