For two-and-a-half years, VCU has clipped along at the Siegel Center largely unabated. The Rams have piled up 38 wins, including a school-record 18 last season. They upset 17th-ranked Oklahoma and fans stormed the floor. VCU also toppled arch-rival Old Dominion – twice. There was the nail-biter against James Madison that the Rams won in overtime and, there was the epic rout of Towson that featured 20 VCU 3-pointers.
It’s been a fun ride, but along the way, one team has eluded the Rams’ grasp, the Northeastern Huskies. Coached by Bill Coen, Northeastern has beaten VCU at the Siegel Center each of the last two seasons, the Rams’ only losses at the arena in 40 games.
A refresher course:
THE KARL HESS GAME
Northeastern 68, VCU 63 (Jan. 27, 2009) – Box Score
In front of a weekday crowd of more than 6,800 and a national TV audience via ESPNU, Northeastern and VCU battled for sole possession of first place in the CAA. The game would also later feed into VCU fans’ superstition that the Rams’ gold uniforms were somehow cursed.
The Rams, led by senior Eric Maynor, were riding a seven-game win streak, but it was obvious in the early going that Maynor didn’t have his good legs. While Maynor struggled to get going, the Huskies took advantage, racing to a 30-13 lead in the game’s first 15 minutes.
But the Rams wouldn’t go quietly. Sophomore Brandon Rozzell scored eight points and Maynor buried a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left in the half during a 17-4 VCU run that cut the margin to 34-30 at intermission.
Whatever momentum the Rams took to the locker room, they forgot it there, as Northeastern used a 15-4 blitz, capped by a Chaisson Allen 3-pointer, to surge to a 49-33 lead. Game, set, match? Hardly.
If you know Eric Maynor at all, you know that he’s not going to lay down for anyone. Over the final 15 minutes, Maynor went to work, scoring 18 of his game-high 30 points in the second period. VCU closed within two points on three occasions, sending the crowd into a frenzied state (still the best weekday crowd at the Stu in my six years). However, the Rams could never get over the hump.
With 15 seconds left and the Rams trailing 64-61, Maynor pulled up for a long three, but missed wide. Northeastern’s Nkem Ojougboh grabbed the rebound, was fouled and made two free throws and effectively ended the game.
The game also included a bizarre incident with Maynor, Northeastern’s Matt Janning and referee Karl Hess. At one point, Maynor drove, scored, was fouled and celebrated as Janning crashed to the floor. Pushing, finger-pointing and some bad language was exchanged, with Hess somehow in the middle of the fray.
THE MANNY ADAKO SHOW
Northeastern 62, VCU 57 (Jan. 4, 2010) – Box Score
This game proved to be a maddening clinic on low-post play. Northeastern senior Manny Adako, a solid, but athletically unspectacular big, torched the Rams for 23 points with a never-ending series of short jumpers and baby-hook bank shots.
On the other side of the isle, VCU’s Larry Sanders struggled, missing 10 of 16 field goals, although Sanders did finish with 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.
The Rams jumped to a 28-25 halftime lead and still held a 40-39 advantage with 13:45 remaining. However, Chaisson Allen drilled a 3-pointer, followed by a pair of buckets by Adako, while VCU committed three turnovers in four possessions. Down 46-40, the Rams eventually cut the lead to 48-47 on an Ed Nixon 3-pointer with 6:34 left, but could get no closer.