VCU is playing its 15th season inside the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, a venue that has changed the course of the program and has become one of college basketball’s best atmospheres.
Before the Siegel Center opened, the VCU program was stuck in neutral. In the previous 14 seasons, the Rams made one NCAA Tournament appearance. In the 14 seasons since “The Stu” opened its doors, VCU has danced in March six times and recorded 13 winning records. Of course, there are a lot of other reasons for the Rams’ success over that period, namely, some great coaches. But it’s fair to say the program was more attractive to recruits, coaches and fans at the corner of Broad and Harrison, than in the Coliseum, a building too old, too big and too off-campus.
Since the Siegel Center opened its doors to basketball on Nov. 19, 1999, the Rams have played 212 games (not counting exhibitions) in the arena and won 183 of them, a winning percentage of .863. Along the way, there were plenty of unforgettable moments and epic battles. I tried to narrow those 212 games into a definitive list of 15 “greatest” games. Each game carries significance in its own right. Some were amazing finishes, some were historic. All of them were memorable.
15-VCU 52, Drexel 48 (Jan. 5, 2011) – Box Score
In a rivalry that produced numerous wacky finishes, this may have been the wackiest. After rallying from eight points down, Joey Rodriguez gave the Rams a 47-46 lead with a 3-pointer with 51 seconds left. Then it got nuts. With 13.2 seconds left, Jamie Skeen rebounded a potential go-ahead jumper by Drexel’s Chris Fouch and was fouled. Dragons’ Coach Bruiser Flint promptly picked up back-to-back technical fouls and the Rams’ clinched with win with five straight free throws.
14-VCU 76, Pitt 73 OT (Dec. 17, 2000) – Box Score
In the first nationally televised game at the Siegel Center, VCU rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit to knock off Big East foe Pitt. That Panthers team would later reach the Big East Championship Game and the second round of the NIT.
13-VCU 107, Texas A&M 106 2OT (Dec. 2, 2000) – Box Score
The highest scoring game in Siegel Center history and the only double-overtime contest on the arena’s history.
12-VCU 80, Richmond 77 (Feb. 26, 2000) – Box Score
Bo Jones (more on him later), poured in 35 points and LaMar Taylor converted an old-fashioned three-point play with .7 seconds left to give the Rams their first win over their crosstown rivals in their new building.
11-VCU 72, UNC Wilmington 58 (Feb. 27, 2008) – Box Score
With this win, the Rams clinched the CAA’s regular season title and cut down the nets afterwards; the only time that’s happened in the building’s history.
10-#22 VCU 92, Saint Joseph’s 86 OT (Jan. 17, 2013) – Box Score
For the first time, VCU took the Siegel Center floor as a ranked team. The next 45 minutes became an instant classic. Trailing 79-75 with 14.0 seconds left, Troy Daniels hit a corner three. After a Saint Joseph’s free throw, Darius Theus drove end-to-end for a game-tying, driving layup with 6.8 seconds remaining to force overtime. In the extra period, the Rams used a Juvonte Reddic dunk and a four-point play by Treveon Graham to send the Hawks to the canvas.
9-VCU 62, Drexel 60 (Jan. 7, 2006) – Box Score
Just another chapter in the wild VCU-Drexel series. One year after Bashir Mason’s 35-foot heave broke VCU’s hearts, B.A. Walker hit a 16-foot jumper as time expired to give the Rams a win over the Dragons.
Walker shot at (:20 mark)
7-VCU 73, Alabama 54 (Dec. 15, 2012) – Box Score
A charged crowd welcomed Alabama Coach Anthony Grant back to the Siegel Center in this highly anticipated matchup. But by midway through the second half, the fiery former VCU coach could only watch helplessly from the bench as the Rams dismantled his ‘Bama squad.
6-VCU 69, Georgia State 41 (Feb. 28, 2009) – Box Score
The fireworks began before the game even tipped off, as VCU retired Eric Maynor’s jersey in a pregame, Senior Day ceremony. Then, with 11:21 left in the first half, Maynor broke the school’s career scoring record in the most appropriate fashion – with a trademark floater.
5-VCU 84, #20 Butler 52 (March 2, 2013) – Box Score
This Final Four rematch was no match at all. VCU looked like a team that had been holding closely to its chest two years of anger towards the team that ended its magical 2011 NCAA Tournament run. An early steal and highlight reel dunk by Briante Weber set the tone and the Rams rolled from there.
4-VCU 82, #17 Oklahoma 69 (Nov. 21, 2009) – Box Score
The Rams have not been kind to former coaches at the Siegel Center. Jeff Capel returned to Richmond, and with him, he brought the first ranked opponent in the building’s history. VCU promptly blitzed the Sooners behind a combined 37 points from Jay Gavin and Larry Sanders, and at the final horn, fans rushed the floor.
3-VCU 72, UNC Wilmington 71 OT (Feb. 26, 2005) – Box Score
The Michael Doles Game. Undeniably the most remarkable VCU comeback in the Siegel Center era. With 5:25 left, VCU trailed 58-39. The next 10 minutes of game time were absolute madness. Late in regulation, VCU scored seven points during one 11-second blur to tie the game. Doles, who finished with a game-high 22 points, had the last five in regulation.
2-VCU 84, East Carolina 81 OT (Jan. 6, 2001) – Box Score
The only thing more memorable than Bo Jones 70-foot heave off an ECU missed free throw that won it at the final buzzer is late VCU play-by-play announcer Terry Sisisky’s volcanic radio call.
1-VCU 79, Louisville 74 (Nov. 19, 1999) – Box Score
After all that it took to get the Siegel Center open (a year later than expected) and with the leftover animosity from the Metro Conference breakup still hanging over the VCU-Louisville series, there couldn’t have been a more cathartic start for the arena. VCU trailed 49-29 at one point, but stormed back behind 19 points from Scott Lilly. The Rams limited the Cardinals to just 29 percent shooting in the second half and kicked off a new era in style.