The pain VCU once inflicted on opposing favorites is one now felt by Ram fans everywhere.
Despite a six-point deficit to start the second half, Treveon Graham’s free throws with 3:58 to play gave the Rams a 10-point lead and momentum to finish off the upstart Lumberjacks.
At that point SFA implemented a 3-2 zone defense that stifled the Rams, and combined with some sloppy VCU turnovers and easy SFA buckets, the No.12 seed out of the Southland conference was right back in it, down three with 25 seconds to play.
Forced to foul, SFA sent Briante Weber to the line where he would hit one of two free throws to give VCU a four-point lead, one they would maintain with Jordan Burgess, fresh off a huge three-pointer just seconds prior, headed to the line to ice the game with free throws.
Burgess missed both, and the ensuing play is one that will go down as one of the toughest moments Ram fans have ever experienced.
SFA’s Desmond Haymon pulled up behind the three-point line and drained a three-pointer with just over three seconds to play, drawing a tough foul call on JeQuan Lewis that would send Haymon to the line to hit a big free throw that would finish off the SFA 17-7 run and send the game into overtime.
There, SFA would make all the big plays, and watch Lewis miss a great look from three that would’ve given the Rams a one-point win. Final score: 77-75, Stephen F Austin.
It was a tough way to end what was otherwise a fantastic season, one in which VCU played in their second consecutive A-10 Championship game and one they swept their in-state opponents, 7-0.
Treveon Graham led VCU with 19 points and seven rebounds in the loss. Graham was an impressive 8-14 from the floor but had four turnovers including a costly one with 3:03 to play. SFA made VCU pay for that one by hitting a big three to cut the lead to five just eight seconds later.
Juvonte Reddic finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks for VCU. Reddic scored six of those points in the second half on 3-3 shooting and had two steals and a block to finish the game.
Fellow senior, Rob Brandenberg, had a rough night, fouling out in just 16 minutes of play and ended his night with four points and three rebounds.
Briante Weber finished with just five points but had an impressive eight assist, six steal night while turning it over just twice in his 42 minutes of play.
VCU got stellar play from their freshmen in the loss including 13 points from Lewis, six points on 2-4 shooting from deep from Dough Brooks in his six minutes off the bench and 14 points that included four three-pointers from Jordan Burgess.
VCU graduates Brandenberg and Reddic but will add the nation’s 15th-ranked recruiting class next season that includes Rivals top-40 6’8 small forward, Terry Larrier, as well as fellow ESPN top-100 players, 6’8 power forward Justin Tillman (No.97) and 6’9 power forward Mike Gilmore (No.77), nephew of NBA Hall of Fame player, Artis Gilmore. They also add Richmond native Jonathan Williams, a point guard who played his high school ball at powerhouse program St. Benedict’s in New Jersey.
The Rams will most likely enter next season as a top-3 conference pick, if not the overall favorite to win next year’s Atlantic 10 conference, and will highlight their home schedule with a big game at the Siegel Center against UVA. Anticipate another sellout season and a bright future with some serious returning talent.