RICHMOND, Va. – The result wasn’t what about 7,600 of the 7,647 folks in the stands at the Verizon Wireless Arena would’ve hoped for. But on their behalf, I’d like to ask Virginia Coach Tony Bennett personally, can we do this again?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough to stomach a 74-57 loss to an in-state rival on your home floor, but who wouldn’t sign up to play this thing again, every year?
The long-dormant VCU-Virginia series roared back to life last year in Charlottesville, when VCU scored a 59-56 victory. In that game, VCU’s Treveon Graham buried a game-winning 3-pointer with less than two seconds left. Saturday’s return game in Richmond wasn’t nearly that type of thriller, but it had many of the elements of an unforgettable college basketball game: An energized – check that, absolutely rabid – home crowd, two successful programs and, for the most part, a highly contested game.
Saturday’s final score implies a much less dramatic afternoon than actually transpired. Graham hit three consecutive second-half 3-pointers to pull VCU within 59-55 with 6:00 left. The Siegel Center crowd, possibly the loudest, most unhinged in the 16-year history of the building, became a sonic kiln, and fired itself into a deafening pitch. It wasn’t until seventh-ranked Virginia, which appears to be every bit of the top-10 team they’re advertised to be, struck back with an impressive, surgical 15-0 burst, that the result was decided.
These two schools, less than an hour apart, didn’t meet for 13 years until last season, and now that this Cadillac of a series is back, do we really want to park it in the garage wait to show it off to our grandkids. I’m not ready for that. Are you?
“Our fans were great. It was a great atmosphere. This is the type of college basketball game that guys want to play in,” said VCU Coach Shaka Smart afterwards.