In a feisty effort against 24th ranked Tennessee, VCU fought hard but came up just short in their semifinal NIT tip-off matchup, losing their first game of the season, 77-72 on a rough 30% shooting night.
Bruce Pearl’s Volunteer squad threatened to blow this one open, but a solid road effort from senior Brandon Rozzell almost single handedly kept the Rams in the game, including a crucial 4-point play late in the game. Rozzell lead the Black-and-Gold with 23 points and 4 assists, and hit 6-of-11 shots from long range.
Jamie Skeen notched his first double double of this early hoops season, scoring 12 points to go along with 14 rebounds. But Skeen couldn’t get it done alone, as the Rams were dominated in the paint to the tune of an 11 rebound, 32 point disadvantage.
The Rams leading scorer and nation’s leading assist man, Joey Rodriguez, had his worst night of the season scoring just 5 points on 1-10 shooting before fouling out. Rodriguez headed to the locker room after cramping up in the first half and never quite recovered.
After Rodriguez hit a late VCU tre, as was the case most of the night, the Rams couldn’t quite turn that momentum into anything other than a brief glimmer of hope.
VCU will have to put the missed opportunity behind them quick, having just a day to enjoy the holidays before facing UCLA in the 3rd place game this Friday.
The Rams will get a chance to avenge their last NCAA tournament loss just two years ago against a Bruins squad that went down to 7th ranked Villanova 82-70, 2:30PM Friday on ESPN2. Both teams come into this game with 3-1 records.