If there is one thing we’ll likely remember the 2016-17 season for, it’s drama. The Rams advanced to their seventh consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, but it was how they got there that made this year so special, winning in dramatic fashion on multiple occasions (miracle fashion twice) to pick up the necessary wins needed to punch a ticket this season as an at-large team.
Here are my five favorite games from this past season.
5. VCU wins at Liberty 64-59
The Rams hit the road for what on paper should have been an early season gimme win, but ran into some technical difficulties in the form of a pesky Flames team. The Rams trailed early, going down by as many as nine points in the first half before taking a 3-point lead into halftime thanks to a classic last-play JeQuan Lewis three. VCU built on that lead through much of the second, threatening to blow Liberty away before the Flames prayers were answered in the form of a comeback, cutting VCU’s lead to just three with 21 seconds to go. The Flames fouled Doug Brooks to extend the game, watching The Experience miss the front end of a one-and-one but failing to contain a hungry Mo Alie-Cox on the rebound, drawing a foul on the offensive rebound attempt. The senior Alie-Cox would go on to make four free throws the final 20 seconds of the game to seal the win for the Rams, avoiding what would have been a terrible early season blemish.
4. Rams erase double-digit deficit to win at ODU, 67-64
It’s been five seasons since VCU and ODU ended their time as conference foes, but that hasn’t made this rivalry any less important to fans on both sides. With just one matchup between the two each season now, the Rams didn’t want to give ODU year-long bragging rights but were in trouble of doing just that, watching ODU increase their lead to 11 with 7:37 left to play in Norfolk. But the Rams battled back, erasing that deficit in less than two minutes of play, seizing control and managing to hang on and hanging on to win as an Ahmad Carver last-chance three missed for the Monarchs. It was the second consecutive win for VCU in the series, moving VCU to 4-1 against ODU since the two ended their time together as CAA rivals.
3. Late Lewis 3 halts Richmond A-10 tourney upset attempt
They almost got us and quite frankly, I thought it was finally about to happen. Nope. The Rams and Spiders met for the third time this season with a trip to the Atlantic 10 final on the line and for a short bit, it appeared Richmond was due to put an end to VCU’s season sweep of the Spiders. With 35 seconds to play, Richmond’s Nick Sherod –grandson of VCU legend Edmond Sherod — connected on a three for the Spiders to give UofR a three-point lead and hope an an NCAA tournament bid. But as he had done all season long, JeQuan Lewis came up huge, draining a corner three to tie the game before one final Rams regulation stop would send the game to overtime. From there it was all VCU, as the Rams would outscore Chris Mooney and Co. 16-6 in the five minutes of free basketball, breaking the hearts of Spider fans and sending VCU to their fifth consecutive Atlantic 10 title appearance.
2. Rams come back from the dead to win at St. Bonaventure
In the first insane game of the craziest week in VCU hoops history, the Rams looked dead and buried in Olean, NY thanks to a last second Matt Mobley three-pointer that seemingly ended the game, giving St. Bonaventure a 66-65 advantage before the buzzer sounded. Problem: Bona fans rushed the court before said game officially ended, with one fan knocking down an official and a Bona security guard grabbing and walking away with the game ball before the game had officially ended. Result: a one-shot technical foul, the only shot JeQuan Lewis needed to send the game to overtime where the Rams would seal the unthinkable win. To that point it was one of the craziest endings to a VCU game in the history of the program.
1. VCU wins at GW with second 0.4 miracle of the week
Was this win crazier than the Bona win? That’s debatable. If you separate the two, perhaps not. BUT, the fact that we all watched this go down just days after the Rams escaped death in Olean makes this my top game of the season. Atlantic 10 fans celebrated as Yuta Watanabe seemingly got revenge for VCU’s crazy win over bona, hitting a three for the Colonials before the buzzer sounded. To VCU’s dismay, no fans drew technicals this time around. Once again however, there remained 0.4 seconds left to play after officials went to the monitors to review the play. Just four days after the miracle in Olean, the Rams had another great escape up their sleeve, with former head coach Will Wade drawing up a classic play to draw a foul on the in-bound, with JeQuan Lewis setting the trap perfectly on 7′ GW freshman Collin Goss who had come in for the first time of the game to defend the in-bound pass on that play. Goss ran the much smaller Lewis over before he would go on to hit two clutch free throws at the other end, wrapping up the wildest week of wins VCU fans have ever seen.