VCU FINDS A LITTLE OF ITS OLD SELF; HAS LAST LAUGH ON RICHMOND

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Melvin Johnson hit five threes and scored 23 points in VCU's 70-67 win over Richmond Friday.

Melvin Johnson hit five threes and scored 23 points in VCU’s 70-67 win over Richmond Friday.

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.

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THE PEPPAS IN TIMES SQUARE

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The VCU Pep Band keeps finding ways to one-up itself. This year, the Rams crashed Times Square. As usual, The Peppas drew a big crowd.

MAY CARSON DALY DREAM OF THE VCU PEPPAS FOR YEARS TO COME

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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:

ALSO…

Rodney vs. Spidurrr

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The Peppas rolling down the street

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SECOND CHANCES, JOHNSON’S RETURN TO FORM FUEL SECOND SEASON

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Melvin Johnson hit 4-of-7 three-pointers and scored 16 points to help lift VCU past Fordham Thursday.

Melvin Johnson hit 4-of-7 three-pointers and scored 16 points to help lift VCU past Fordham Thursday.

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.

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FORDHAM POSTGAME

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JUSTIN TILLMAN BLOCKED SHOT

VCU ALUMNI IN THE BIG APPLE

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We had another great time Wednesday night in Tribeca with the VCU Alumni Association. It was a great opportunity to rally the VCU faithful in the New York area and enjoy some great views of the city.

 

THE PEPPAS IN TIMES SQUARE

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We had a great time with The Peppas, the Gold Rush Dancers and the VCU Cheer squads Thursday morning in Times Square. They sure know how to draw a crowd. Stay tuned to the blog for a video from today shortly. In the meantime, here’s a few shots from Thursday’s performance.

SHAKA SMART MEDIA MINUTES

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Shaka Smart meets with the media prior to VCU’s departure for the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament in Brooklyn, New York.

ATLANTIC 10 TOURNAMENT BRACKET

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VCU TOPS MASON ON SENIOR NIGHT: THE VIDEO RUNDOWN

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First, let’s lead off with a pretty cool video. VCU fan Chris Crowley sang the National Anthem last night and asked the Siegel Center crowd to sing along with him. By the end, Crowley lowers his mic as the crowd sings in unison. It was a night of “family”. VCU hosted its annual Alumni Day, where scores of former players like Calvin Duncan, Kendrick Warren, Joey Rodriguez, Gerald Henderson, Bradford Burgess and others returned to celebrate the VCU Basketball fraternity. It was also Senior Night, where the Rams paid tribute to Briante Weber, Treveon Graham and Jarred Guest. The whole game felt like an evening with friends.

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HIGHLIGHTS

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MO ALIE-COX JUST DUNKING ON DUDES

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VCU SENIOR TRIBUTE 

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VCU PLAYER POSTGAME

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SHAKA SMART POSTGAME

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