** Disclaimer: The games included in these articles are solely my opinion. If yours differs, I’d encourage you to comment below, or join the discussion on our forums. **
Make sure you checked out previous post of this ongoing series!
It was the first year for VCU in the post Shaka Smart era and all the pressure was on first year head Coach Will Wade. The Rams were back in the NCAA tournament for our sixth-straight appearance.
VCU had two seniors, Korey Billbury and Melvin Johnson, on the roster looking to extend their college career, but VCU hadn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since defeating Akron, 88-42, in 2013.
#7 – VCU vs Oregon St.
March 18, 2016
Will Wade was a question mark coming into the season. He had experienced some success at Chattanooga, but Ram Fans were going to be expecting a lot.
Shaka Smart had taken the Rams to 5 straight NCAA Tournaments, and while Wade was a part of the 2011 Final Four staff, he had never made the Tournament as a head coach.
VCU made it through the out-of-conference stretch in the regular season with an 8-5 record. But all five of those losses came at the hands of “power conference” schools: #5 Duke, Wisconsin, Florida St., Georgia Tech, and #23 Cincinnati.
It seemed almost ominous heading into the conference schedule that VCU had dropped all of their potentially résumé enhancing opportunities.
But, then the Rams opened A10 play on a 9-0 tear through the conference.
The second half of the conference schedule VCU squeaked by with a 5-4 record and the questions seemed to creep back in regarding VCU’s chances to finish the A10 Tournament strong enough to be able to get into the Big Dance.
In true VCU form, the Rams knocked off Massachusetts and Davidson before ultimately falling to St. Josephs in the A10 Finals. It was the fourth straight appearance for the Rams in the A10 Final game—keep in mind the Rams had only been part of the A10 for four seasons as well.
The Rams had a tough draw in Norman, Oklahoma as they would be facing off against the Beavers of Oregon St.—led by Gary Payton II.
And this is where all those tough losses early in the season pay off. Ideally you learn, you grow, you take the trials of winning and/or losing and you turn that into experience.
VCU had tournament experience while Oregon St. was dancing for the first time in 26 years.
Melvin Johnson, Mo Alie-Cox, and JeQuan Lewis led the way for the Rams combining for 53 of VCU’s 75 points.
Lewis led with poise while maintaining aggression. He was tasked with leading a team that only had two seniors—and of those two, Billbury, was in his first and only year with the Rams.
The junior point guard, Lewis, finished the contest with a game-high 21 points and came up just short of recording a triple-double as he added 7 rebounds and 8 assists.
Mo Alie-Cox had three fantastic dunks coming from his 7 shots. He ended with a game-high 8 rebounds while throwing down for 20 points and blocking 3 shots.
Melvin Johnson chipped in 12 points and fellow senior, Billbury, added 6 points on the night.
VCU defeated the Beavers 75-67 that night and secured their first NCAA Tournament win in three years.
Come back next week as we move to #6 on my list of my personal top 10 games over the last 10 years. Here’s a little hint for those restless folks out there:
Always wait to rush the court until the game is over.
To help us continue to provide premium coverage, we are offering a VCURamNation.com subscription package. Subscriptions include access to premium content, like videos (game highlights, interviews and all the other stuff we cook up behind the camera), game previews, recruiting articles, and in-depth blog posts.