The Richmond Spiders were a winless 0-7 in road contests this season, six of which came at the hands of kenpom top-100 teams. It was perhaps a sign of hope for Spider fans then to see their team in their home whites, as the Rams came onto the court in their road black uniforms to complete VCU’s “Black-Out” of the Siegel Center.
Both teams struggled to hit shots early with Rams taking a six-point lead into the half. The shooting whoas continued for VCU, but not for the Spiders, as Richmond ended VCU’s 12-game winning streak behind a 42-27 second half to defeat the Rams 64-55.
RAMS STRUGGLING ON OFFENSE
VCU’s 3-20 performance from deep was their second worst of the season (Rams shot 11.8% in a loss against Villanova) but is nothing new to this VCU team, particularly as of late. The Rams are a middle of the pack 3-point shooting team in A-10 play but are trending in a very negative direction.
v Richmond: 3-20 (15%)
v GW: 5-22 (22.7%)
at SLU: 7-23 (30.4%)
at Duquesne: 12-30 (40%)
at URI: 8-24 (33.3%)
at Saint Joseph’s: 12-23 (52.2%)
v Davidson: 7-22 (31.8%)
at Fordham : 7-22 (31.8%)
Inside the arc the black and gold haven’t been much better since the conference season began. The Rams 48.2% effective field goal percentage ranks sixth in the conference as of this post. VCU checks in at seventh in two-point percentage and 11th in free throw percentage. Overall the Rams offense ranks sixth in conference play in adjusted offensive efficiency.
SINGLES v HOMERUNS
Coach Smart mentioned this in the post-game press conference and you can certainly see it in the stats. VCU’s inability to hit the three killed them tonight, especially because it took VCU away from something that was working fairly effectively.
The Rams went 19-34 inside the arc in tonight’s loss, good for 55.9% from the field. That’s 7.3% better than VCU is shooting inside the arc on the season. Richmond had zero blocks and at least one very small guard out front, ripe for a mismatch (5’8 Kendall Anthony). Hindsight is always 20/20 but things might have worked better if the black and gold had continued to probe the paint, hopefully forcing more than the 13 Spider fouls called on the evening and giving the Rams the chance for either a higher percentage basket or free throws. With that said, the Rams must continue to improve at the stripe. VCU shot just 61.5% from the free throw line where they were outscored 20-8. That’s a killer in a close game.
ON THE SUBJECT OF POINTS IN THE PAINT
Not sure if this is really that much of a big deal, but this is the first VCU team in six seasons to not feature a big man that’s averaging double-digit scoring. Mo Alie-Cox leads the Rams down low with 6.4 points per game, he’s connecting on 58% of his attempts (a better percentage than the likes of Reddic, Skeen or Sanders ever connected on), but is attempting just 4.4 points per game. Mo is used on just 14% of offensive possessions for the Rams, a number that ranks 11th on the team, making him a virtual non-factor in offensive halfcourt sets. We’re winning games so I’m not complaining. But I wonder what a more involved Mo (or Tillman or Gilmore or Guest) could have done for a Rams offense that just couldn’t get it going from deep tonight.
BOTH TEAMS WERE DUE
Prior to throttling George Washington, the Rams had close wins of five points, six points and two points, two of those games coming against teams ranked 251 or worse by kenpom’s computers. On the other side of the coin, the Spiders have been flying a bit under the radar due to losing a ton of road games this season, mostly against good teams. Last season a very good VCU team went 2-5 in top-100 conference road games, with one of those wins coming at Richmond. So far Richmond’s conference losses are at Davidson (No.33), GW (No.68) and Dayton (No.37), the last two coming by three points each. The Spiders have hammered three of the home teams they’ve played, including an impressive 26-point win over Davidson, and had their closest A-10 home contest come in the form of a 10-point win over George Mason. I told a friend prior to this one that with all the talk of losing streaks (Spiders being 1-28 against kenpom top-100s since their 2011 Sweet 16, them being 0-7 on the road this season) I just had a bad feeling. I hate to admit that, but it almost felt as if the stars were aligned for a Richmond win and a VCU loss today. Just too many streaks going in VCU’s direction for the gods of college basketball not to intervene today in Richmond’s favor.
HOPING FOR A SPEEDY RECOVERY
For those of you asking us on Twitter, we have no clue what the extent of Briante’s injury is. Hopefully for all parties involved he’ll be fine and will return this season to lead the Rams to glory while finishing his quest for the NCAA’s all-time steals record. Weber finished with six steals tonight and and was realistically about six games away from owning the record.
Man, I hate losing. It’s especially hard when you aren’t used to it. That’s not me being arrogant, that’s me having to adjust to VCU’s first loss since Dec 6, darn close to two months without a loss. This is VCU’s second consecutive season at 17-4, the difference this season being this year’s schedule included five additional top-100 teams up to this point. The Rams drop to 7-1 on conference play and remain in control of the A-10 regular season title race, a full game ahead of the pack. Of the 6-2 teams, the Rams own a head-to-head tie-breaker over Rhode Island thanks to VCU’s win in Kingston. VCU will face the other 6-2 squad, Dayton, at the Siegel Center on Feb 28, the only meeting between the two this season.