March 18, 2015
March 15, 2015
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Amid the chaotic celebration, Briante Weber hobbled over to the ladder. With the help of his teammates, he ascended toward the rim for the first time in weeks, and snipped the last remaining loop of the net. With the snap of the scissors, he freed the net from the metal rim and officially cut VCU loose of its late-season quagmire.
Weber’s symbolic act punctuated a dizzying VCU sprint to its first Atlantic 10 Championship. The Rams, preseason favorites relegated to the No. 5 seed after losing six of their final 11 regular season games, shocked the league with four wins in four days to claim the title. The final victory came Sunday, as the Rams held off Dayton 71-65 in a thrilling A-10 Championship Game at Barclays Center.
At the final buzzer, Weber, his right knee immobilized following season-ending knee surgery, hopped to midcourt to celebrate before breaking down in tears as he was mobbed by teammates.
It capped a week that redefined VCU’s season. Last week, the Rams were a team struggling to find an identity in the long shadow cast by Weber’s Jan. 31 torn ACL. For four years he had been the engine of VCU’s high-energy brand of basketball and the emotional backbone of the program. But as abruptly as Weber’s career was cut tragically short, VCU found its championship form.
“Words really can’t explain how proud I am of these guys,” said Weber, the first player to win three A-10 Defensive Player of the Year awards. “It’s been an emotional roller coaster for us, when I went out with an injury, and then us winning, losing, everybody hopping off the bandwagon and so forth.
“But just know behind closed doors we had our talks and all our emotional stuff; when we step in between those lines, from March to the last bit of February, we kind of found ourselves again and that’s what we need to keep building on that right now.”
Weber’s loss was devastating to VCU, which was ranked 14th at the time. But Sunday’s victory – one that seemed improbable as recently as Wednesday – allowed the Rams fulfill a promise they made to their fallen point guard.
March 15, 2015
March 14, 2015
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Momentum is a funny, nebulous concept, but if there was ever proof of how quickly it can shift, it was VCU’s impressive – and for many, unexpected – 93-73 upset of regular season champ Davidson Saturday in the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinals at Barclays Center.
Left for dead a little over a week ago by some prognosticators, VCU is back to wreaking havoc on brackets. The Rams are storming into the A-10 title game for the third straight year Sunday, where they’ll take on Dayton. The Flyers topped Rhode Island in Saturday’s semifinal nightcap. It will be VCU’s fifth straight appearance in a conference championship game.
Just days ago, VCU’s victory would have been considered as unlikely as a Knicks winning streak. At times, the Rams made it look easy against Davidson, hitting 12 three-pointers on the way to victory.
The Rams didn’t just beat a red-hot Davidson team Saturday, avenging an 82-55 blowout loss on March 5, VCU dominated the Wildcats for long stretches, and displayed championship form. It was Davidson’s first loss in 11 games, and VCU’s best performance since losing point guard Briante Weber to injury on Jan. 31. VCU’s 93 points were the most by a Davidson opponent in three months.
“We played with a lot of enthusiasm today. We wanted to go out there and attack from the get-go. We had our ups and downs and responded pretty well today, and we’re going to have to do that for the rest of the season,” said senior Treveon Graham, who finished with 18 points.
It had been nine days since VCU and Davidson last met, but it might as well have been nine years.
March 14, 2015
March 14, 2015
March 13, 2015
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – It was a game against Richmond that originally jolted VCU into its darkest stretch under Shaka Smart, and it might have taken a game against Richmond to shock the Rams back to life.
After two crushing losses to the Spiders this season – a third if you count Briante Weber’s knee – VCU found a way to look a little more like itself Friday on the way to a heart-pounding, come-from-behind, 70-67 Atlantic 10 Quarterfinal victory at Barclays Center.
The win sends the fifth-seeded Rams back to the A-10 semifinals, where they’ll face top-seeded Davidson at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Bronx native Melvin Johnson enjoyed a strong shooting performance for the second straight night and finished with 23 points for the Rams. He hit 5-of-6 threes in the first half as VCU grabbed a 37-36 lead. When his jumper abandoned him in the second half, Johnson found other ways to bolster the Rams, including a steal and breakaway layup and later an assist on a go-ahead 3-pointer as VCU scored its biggest triumph, emotionally and practically, since January.
It was a VCU victory with a cathartic bent.
The Rams were nationally ranked and in the midst of a 12-game winning streak when a game with the rival Spiders on Jan. 31 altered the course of the season. Not only did VCU lose that game at the Siegel Center, it also lost Weber to a torn ACL in the waning moments. The Rams closed the regular season with a 5-6 stretch and lost heartbreakers to St. Bonaventure (at the buzzer), La Salle (in double overtime) and again, Richmond (also in double overtime). Once 7-0 in league play, the Rams slipped to the A-10 Tournament’s No. 5 seed.
VCU has spent the last six weeks trying to find itself without Weber, who was not only the Rams’ starting point guard, but their emotional cornerstone.
March 13, 2015
Today’s format was a little different than the last two years, but the Peppas and the VCU spirit squads made what has become an annual appearance on the Today Show this morning. VCU superfan Chris Crowley also got plenty of airtime this morning. Have a look:
Rodney vs. Spidurrr
The Peppas rolling down the street
March 12, 2015
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – An unfortunate consequence of poor shooting is the tendency to worry about more poor shooting. The key to breaking out, Melvin Johnson believes, isn’t more thinking, but less.
Johnson, who has battled shooting slumps this season, looked confident and comfortable Thursday as he stroked 5-of-8 shots, including 4-of-7 from three, to help pull fifth-seeded VCU to a 63-57 win over 12th-seeded Fordham in the second round of the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament at the Barclays Center.
In his last two games, Johnson is 7-of-13 from three. He finished with 16 points Thursday and hit a critical trey with 2:31 remaining as VCU kept a persistent Fordham at bay.
His revival comes at a good time for VCU, which is looking to break out of a shooting funk, and needs scoring from any player not named Treveon Graham. As a whole, the Rams (23-9) didn’t find their shooting stroke Thursday. VCU shot .301 (18-of-59) from the floor, a fact which kept Fordham (10-21) knocking at its door for 39 minutes. But Johnson and Graham ultimately provided just enough baskets and VCU was able to track down enough of its misses to secure the victory.
The Black & Gold grabbed 20 offensive rebounds and turned those into an 18-12 advantage in second chance points. It wasn’t pretty, but it was enough.
The win sets up a third meeting this season with rival Richmond Friday at 2:30 p.m. at Barclays.
Johnson, a Bronx native playing in front of friends and family, is VCU’s most prolific 3-point shooter. But when shots stopped falling for him earlier this season, it got to him. The more he obsessed over missed shots, the more he missed them. He says it took a fresh perspective to help the ball start finding the bottom of the basket.