Joey Rodriguez looks on during VCU's NCAA open practice Tuesday.
RAMS HOPE TO DRAW ON 2009 EXPERIENCE
DAYTON, Ohio – In 20 years, the four remaining players from VCU’s 2009 NCAA Tournament team – seniors Joey Rodriguez, Ed Nixon and Brandon Rozzell, as well as junior Bradford Burgess – may look back fondly on that experience, but now, even two years later, it’s still a sore subject. In that contest, the Rams made a valiant second-half rally against UCLA, but lost a 65-64 decision when Eric Maynor’s final jumper fell short at the buzzer.
“I just remember The last shot and how we lost,” said Burgess. “It was a great game. We were down big and came back and made a run in the second half. We just didn’t pull it out.”
Rodriguez and Burgess were starters on that squad. Rodriguez’s memories of that night in Philadelphia are similarly jaded.
“Every time I think about that game I think about the ending,” Rodriguez, who scored eight points and dished out two assists in that game, said. I remember how we came back and that last play by Eric, that last shot. It just frustrates me. I remember the feeling in the locker room after too, it was Eric’s last game and how emotional it was for everybody.”
As much as it still hurts, that experience may prove valuable for the Rams, who are aiming for VCU’s first NCAA win since 2007 when when they take on USC Wednesday at 9 p.m. at University of Dayton Arena.
“I remember how much it hurt to lose, so I really don’t want to experience that again,” commented Nixon.
“We always wanted to get back here and now we’re back here with a chance against another Pac-10 team and we want to try to go at them,” Rodriguez said.
VCU’s four NCAA veterans can also provide leadership for some of the team’s younger players, who otherwise might get caught up in the production that is the NCAA Tournament.
“We just tell them don’t get caught up in the media. It’s just a game,” Nixon said. “It’s do or die, so we’ve got to do it from the start.”