February 27, 2010
RAMS DROP NAIL-BITING 73-70 DECISION TO OLD DOMINION; AWAIT CAA TOURNAMENT FATE
NORFOLK, Va. – There was a commercial a couple years back that had two birds perched in a tree, talking about flying into the nearby house. In the background, Windex is being used to clean the glass. Ultimately, one of the birds ends up flying into the closed door, not realizing it was closed due to the cleanliness of the glass.
On Saturday afternoon at the Ted Constant Center, the Virginia Commonwealth University men’s basketball felt like that bird and Old Dominion served as the Windex in a 73-70 loss for the Black & Gold.
The Monarchs dominated the battle on the glass, outrebounding VCU, 34-22, including 14 offensive rebounds, one of which proved to be back breakers.
“It was a great college basketball game,” Head Coach Shaka Smart said. “Both teams battled and scraped to do everything they could to win, but ultimately they made a few more plays than us, which proved to be the difference.”
A three-pointer by Ben Finney, an offensive rebound by Kent Bazemore and a steal by Finney all within the final two minutes turned a two-point Ram lead into a three-point ODU victory, which gave the Monarchs their first regular-season CAA title since 2004-05.
Leading the way for the Rams were sophomore Bradford Burgess (Midlothian, Va.) (right) and junior Jamie Skeen (Charlotte, N.C.) (top), who combined for 23 points, 19 of which came in the second-half.
Gerald Lee and Frank Hassell proved to be a dynamic inside duo for Old Dominion, combining for 17-of-23 shooting, 38 points and 11 rebounds.
The game was a typical, back-and-half match-up between the two rivals. In the first half alone, there were four lead-changes and five ties, with neither team holding more than a four-point advantage at any point. Two free-throws from Finney and a jumper from Bazemore sent the Monarchs into halftime with a 39-35 lead.
ODU would push the lead to six three times in the first seven minutes of the second-half, but the Rams would show the resolve that Coach Smart has been talking about all year.
Some stifling defense and clutch plays by Burgess and junior Joey Rodriguez (Oviedo, Fla.) sparked an 8-0 VCU run that gave the Black & Gold a two-point lead with just under 12 minutes left in regulation.
The Rams would hold on to at least a share of the lead until Finney rattled in a three-pointer with 2:11 showing on the clock to give ODU a 69-68 lead and Darius James pushed it to three with a drive to the hoop.
A jumper from Skeen from the top of the key brought VCU within one, but a huge offensive rebound by Bazemore on a missed free-throw, allowed ODU to hold possession push the lead to three with six seconds remaining.
VCU drew up the play it wanted, but junior Brandon Rozzell (Richmond, Va.) had a three-pointer just miss as time expired.
Rodriguez finished with another solid all-around performance with nine points, five assists, five rebounds and one steal.
The CAA Tournament fate of the Black & Gold now lay in the hands of four other schools. If William & Mary wins, the Rams are automatically the fifth seed. If William & Mary AND Drexel both lose, the Rams will be the fourth seed. If William & Mary loses AND Drexel wins, the Rams will be the fifth seed.