March 7, 2010
RAMS DROP INSTANT CLASSIC IN OVERTIME TO ODU IN CAA SEMIFINALS, 73-69
RICHMOND, Va. – The lead to this game can’t be written, it could only be seen on the faces of the Virginia Commonwealth University men’s basketball team as it walked off the hardwood at the Richmond Coliseum with heads hung low.
The Black & Gold had left everything out on the floor, but unfortunately it was the Monarchs of Old Dominion that came up with a couple big plays down the stretch to come out the victors in an instant classic, 73-69, in overtime, in front of a sellout crowd of 11,200.
“I’m extremely proud of the way this team has bought into what we’re trying to do and progressed throughout this year,” Head Coach Shaka Smart said. “We had one goal coming into this tournament and we gave it all we had in this building for three days, unfortunately, we needed it to be four.”
Five different players scored in double-digits for the Rams, but it could not offset the outstanding play by First-Team All-CAA honoree Gerald Lee, who went 10-of-13 from the field for 26 points.
“He was terrific today,” Smart said. “He was extremely physical today, which typically isn’t his game, but he did a great of that today and we just couldn’t find an answer for him.”
Much like the quarterfinal game, VCU found itself in a back-and-forth first-half with neither team holding a lead of bigger than five points and a free-throw from Kent Bazemore with four seconds left in the half sent ODU into the break with a 32-29 advantage.
The Black & Gold would turn up the heat to start the second half, ripping off a 23-9 run to start the second half spurred by three steals and capped off by a fast-break dunk from senior T.J. Gwynn (Burlington, N.C.).
Old Dominion showed why they were 15-3 in regular season conference games, getting excellent play from Lee and Marsharee Neely to eventually tie the game up at 60-60 on a offensive putback with less than three minutes to play.
Junior Joey Rodriguez (Oviedo, Fla.) drilled a pull-up jumper, but Lee answered with a jumper of his own to even the score at 62-62. Neither team was able to find the basket over the final 1:55 as the game moved to overtime.
The teams traded baskets to start the overtime period, but a steal and dunk by Bazemore gave the Monarchs a two-point lead and Ben Finney drilled a three-pointer with 1:08 to play to push the lead to five.
Junior Brandon Rozzell (Richmond, Va.) connected on a three-pointer from the wing and VCU forced a five-second call on the inbounds to get another shot to tie the game. However, a jumper from junior Ed Nixon (St. Petersburg, Fla.) rolled off the rim and Lee knocked down two free-throws to secure ODU’s first championship game appearance since 2005.
Nixon led the way with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting, while Rodriguez and sophomore Bradford Burgess (Midlothian, Va.) each chipped in 13 points apiece. Junior Jamie Skeen (Charlotte, N.C.) tallied 11 points, while Rozzell added 10 off the bench for the Black & Gold.
The Rams will now have to play the waiting game for their postseason destiny with bids to all the tournaments being announced next Sunday, March 15th. Stay tuned to VCUathletics.com for updates.