The VCU Rams are notorious for speeding up their opponent and creating a pace that caters to their liking. But on Wednesday night, the exact opposite transpired.
The Davidson Wildcats controlled the tempo and showed no love on Valentine’s Day, defeating the Rams 74-63 in front of the 115th consecutive sellout crowd at the Siegel Center.
Davidson (14-10, 9-4 Atlantic 10) gave itself some breathing room in the Atlantic 10 standings with the victory, remaining tied with St. Bonaventure as the 2-seed in the conference. VCU (15-11, 7-6 A-10) is now tied with Saint Louis and Richmond in the A-10 and will need a strong finish in order to secure one of the top four spots.
The Rams haven’t shied away from keeping an eye on the standings. They’re well aware of their current position.
“We have the standings posted in practice, and we know how much this game meant,” said VCU sophomore guard De’Riante Jenkins. “We just let it slip away”
Wildcats freshman guard Kellan Grady did damage early and scored 19 points, while senior forward Peyton Aldridge played all 40 minutes for the seventh game this season and led the team with 23 points and 11 rebounds. KiShawn Pritchett and Jon Axel Gudmundsson also scored in double figures, putting up 12 points apiece.
Davidson kept a tight rotation, as it has the entire season, but fatigue never appeared to set in due to its composure on offense.
“We tried to throw different presses at them so we could try to get the style of play going our way,” said Jenkins. “But they did a good job of just controlling the game.”
VCU was only able to force seven turnovers on the night. The ball handling and wittiness of Grady, Pritchett and Gudmundsson helped keep the Rams off-balance defensively.
The Wildcats were efficient, shooting 46 percent from the field, excelled in penetrating the lane to find open shooters and took advantage of VCU’s overly aggressive defense with several backdoor cuts that led to layups.
“I didn’t think our pressure on the ball was good enough,” said VCU coach Mike Rhoades. “I thought we were a half-step late dealing with some of the screens and that’s when you lose a little bit of contact, now you’re playing from behind. They spread you out, and that’s how they get those easy shots.”
Justin Tillman led the Rams with 22 points and eight rebounds, while Jenkins hit five 3-pointers and scored 19. But the lack of offensive production from some of the role players in recent weeks has led to VCU losing three of its last four. And the defense hasn’t been much better.
The Rams are now on their heels and will likely need to win the Atlantic 10 tournament in order to go dancing for an eighth straight season. They’ll be back in action on Saturday, as they travel to D.C. to take on George Washington.
Every time VCU takes the court from here on out, it will have the feel of a must-win game.