No. 14 VCU entered Saturday’s home game against city rival Richmond with a 7-0 conference record, and the perimeter tandem of seniors Briante Weber and Treveon Graham has done a very good job of leading the way. Things didn’t go as planned for the Rams however, as Richmond pulled off the 64-55 upset with point guard Kendall Anthony leading the way with 22 points and six assists.
While the outcome is important the biggest concern moving forward for VCU is how they account for the loss of senior point guard Briante Weber, who tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus in his right knee. The school announced the news Saturday night.
Weber left the game with 3:18 remaining after injuring his right knee on a jump stop on the lane, and he eventually returned to the bench on crutches. His activity as a defender in both the full and half court is what makes the VCU defense so difficult for many opponents to crack. Given the impact Weber has on both ends of the floor, this is a huge loss for the Rams.
A key reason why Richmond won was the way in which they navigated the VCU defense, as they committed just 12 turnovers on the day. In five of VCU’s seven conference wins their opponent committed 16 turnovers or more, with Davidson (15) and Saint Louis (14) being the exceptions. But turnovers against VCU aren’t just about the number committed; there’s also the matter of distinguishing between dead and live-ball turnovers.
Richmond was able to keep the live-ball turnovers down to a minimum, making a team that entered the game ranked tenth in the Atlantic 10 in field goal percentage do the majority of their work in the half court. VCU scored just four fast-break points and ten points off of Richmond turnovers, and those are areas that can help a team make up for poor shooting.
VCU shot 40.7% from the field, 3-for-20 from beyond the arc and were outscored by 12 points (20-8) from the foul line by the Spiders, who picked up their first road win over a ranked opponent in 11 years. Treveon Graham scored 18 points to lead the way, with 13 coming in the second half, but Melvin Johnson shot just 2-for-7 from the field in the final 20 minutes.
Finding quality looks in the half court, and making them, was an issue for VCU against Richmond and that’s been the case in many contests. But a team that has been so good at creating open-court chances was unable to do so Saturday afternoon, and for that Chris Mooney’s deserves credit. And in Kendall Anthony, he has a point guard who is one of the best in the Atlantic 10.
Like his teammates, Anthony struggled in the first half, as he scored just two points on 1-for-6 shooting and did not attempt a single free throw. That wasn’t the case in the second stanza, as Anthony attempted 11 free throws (making nine) and did a solid job of leading the Spiders through VCU’s “HAVOC” defense. Richmond’s 43.5% shooting from the field wouldn’t set any records, but they fact that they were able to get 22 free throws (making 18) made a huge difference in the second half.
The result itself isn’t cause for panic for VCU, as they’re still up by a game in the loss column in the Atlantic 10 standings. But the loss of Weber, a player who runs the show on both ends of the floor, will have a major impact on what the Rams are able to achieve this season.