RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It's a season that has been up and down for VCU, and mostly down for Richmond, as the two rivals took the court for round one of their two regular season clashes on Wednesday night.
For the Rams, the Spiders were expected to be a near-sure win on their schedule since joining the Atlantic 10, but Richmond reversed the recent trend of VCU dominance in this series.
At one point, the Spiders held a more than 20-point lead over the Rams. The Rams struggled to close the gap but came up short. Final score: Spiders 67, Rams 52.
The game was streamed live on Facebook by Stadium College Basketball.
The Rams have won six consecutive meetings with their cross-town rivals, dating back to an Atlantic 10 quarterfinal thriller in the 2015 conference tournament in Brooklyn. That year, Richmond swept the regular season meetings, including its first win at the Siegel Center since 2001, and just its second win ever at the venue. Since VCU's entrance into the Atlantic 10, the Rams hold a 10-3 advantage in the series, and two of those three Spider victories came in overtime. On a larger scale, VCU is 19-5 in the last 24 match-ups, and has advanced to seven consecutive NCAA Tournaments, while Richmond has not been back to the big dance since its Sweet 16 run in 2011.
The last meeting between the two squads came in last year's A-10 semifinal in Pittsburgh, an 87-77 VCU win. JeQuan Lewis led the Rams with 18 points, including a clutch three-pointer in the final seconds to send the game into overtime. That triple came on the heels of a Nick Sherod three for the Spiders to briefly give them the lead. The Rams would out-score Richmond, 16-6, in the extra frame, en route to their fifth straight Atlantic 10 championship game appearance. De'Monte Buckingham led the Spiders with 26 points in the defeat.
This season, VCU enters the first meeting with its arch rival with an 11-7 records, 3-2 in league play, and is coming off a 106-79 loss at Dayton. The Rams average 78.1 points per game, which is good enough for tops in the conference, but they're also allowing 75.6 points per contest, which is 13th in the league. Mike Rhoades and company have been one of the best at crashing the boards, posting 37.9 rebounds per outing, which ranks second among Atlantic 10 teams.
Justin Tillman paces four Rams averaging in double figures in scoring at 18.2 points per game, the sixth-best average in the conference, and his 9.6 rebounds per outing rank second. De'Riante Jenkins checks in at 13.4 points per game, Issac Vann chips in 10.9 per contest, and Jonathan Williams contributes 10.6 points per game. Williams is also tops the Atlantic 10 list in assists with 6.1 per game, though turns the ball over an average of 2.7 times, the seventh-most in the league. When it comes to steals, Williams and Jenkins also rank among the best in the A-10.
Record-wise, this will be the worst Richmond team that VCU has seen in recent history, as the Spiders come in with a 4-13 overall record, 2-3 in the Atlantic 10, but got a much-needed win on Saturday with a 78-68 triumph over George Washington. Like the Rams, they're one of the worst in the conference when it comes to allowing points, giving up 75.1 per game to opponents, which ranks just above VCU at 12th. The difference is that Richmond's total offense hasn't been able to keep pace, ranking eleventh among conference teams at 69.4 ppg. The Spiders have been competitive in conference play, as all three of their league losses have come by seven points or less, one in overtime.
Grant Golden leads five Richmond players in double figures at 14.9 points per game. De'Monte Buckingham chips in 12.7 per outing, while Jacob Gilyard, Nick Sherod, and Khwan Fore all average above 10 points per contest. As for Gilyard, the true freshman is making a splash defensively, averaging 2.5 steals per game.
Tip-off at the Siegel Center is set for 7:00pm on Wednesday. The return trip for the Robins Center will be Wednesday, February 7.