Two teams came into today’s battle needing this one badly and two teams left it all on the court, but ultimately it was VCU that made the big plays late, escaping GW with a key road win, 69-65.
VCU led most of the game and tried to put together a late run to put GW away, but the Colonials battled back to take their first lead of the half with just 1:30 left on the clock.
Then, on the next possession, junior forward Jordan Burgess hit one of the biggest shots of his career, draining a corner three to erase the lead and put VCU up one with just under a minute to play.
The Rams got a stop on the next possession and saw Mo Alie-Cox head to the free throw stripe after grabbing the defensive rebound. The junior center calmly hit two free throws to put VCU up four.
The Colonials were able to get to the line on the following possession, getting two key free throws from Kevin Larsen. Then, after missing the front end of his one-and-one, Justin Tillman was able to grab a defensive board on the other end after GW missed a three that would have won the game followed by a two that would have tied it. Tillman sank his next two free throws to ice the game, allowing the black and gold to escape with a very important road win.
As big as those two were late, it was new starting point guard Johnny Williams who pushed the pace for VCU early, finishing with a team-high 17 points to go with a game-high five assists in the win.
Williams answered nearly every GW bucket late before exiting the game in a scary play that saw the sophomore fly into a railing behind the Colonials bench of a defensive hustle play.
Burgess finished with 14 points of his own and grabbed four rebounds in the win. He hit 50% of his shots on the afternoon.
Mo Alie-Cox and Melvin Johnson round out the group of double-digit scorers for VCU, Alie-Cox finishing with 11 points and a game-high seven rebounds, Johnson finished with 10 on 4-9 shooting.
The win moves VCU to 21-9 on the season and a key 13-3 in A-10 play. It also drops the Colonials to 10-6 in the Atlantic 10, clinching a double-bye in this year’s A-10 tournament for VCU.
The Rams also remain atop the A-10 standings, currently a half of a game up on Saint Joseph’s who can tie the Rams with a win over Saint Louis on Sunday. The Rams however would earn an A-10 tie-breaker over Saint Joseph’s if they are to finish the season with the same record thanks to a head-to-head tie-breaker won by the Rams at Saint Joseph’s earlier this season.
Dayton was tied with both VCU and Saint Joseph’s coming into today’s action but were stunned at home by the Rams of Rhode Island, dropping them a game back of VCU.
VCU will return to the Siegel Center this week for their last home contest of the season, hosting a Davidson team they beat once already this year in yet another tough road contest.
The black and gold will celebrate their senior night that night, honoring the careers of Melvin Johnson and Korey Billbury, then hit the road again for a regular season-ending game at Dayton.