Having won four straight games Rhode Island entered Sunday’s contest at Richmond a win away from moving into a tie for first in the Atlantic 10 with No. 18 VCU. Thanks to the performances put forth by sophomores E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin the Rams won their fifth straight game, beating the Spiders 79-74.
Matthews scored 26 points and grabbed five rebounds, and Martin posted another double as he accounted for 16 points and 16 rebounds. Guard T.J. Buchanan, who shot 7-for-8 from the foul line over the last 2:19, added 15 for the Rams who are now 8-2 in conference play. While URI struggled from the foul line, shooting 16-for-27 in the second half, they did shoot 56 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes. That gave them the separation needed to hold on despite the efforts of Richmond’s Kendall Anthony.
Anthony scored a game-high 28 points, with Terry Allen adding 19 before fouling out late in the second half. Unfortunately for Chris Mooney’s team this game followed a familiar theme for them, as they were able to remain close but could not make the plays needed to win a close game. Richmond has been involved in 11 games decided by five points or less this season, and they’re 3-8 in such contests.
What also hurt Richmond was the loss of big man Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, who left the game in the first half after taking a shot to the face. Nelson-Ododa didn’t return to the game after going to the locker room, and his absence did not help matters for a team that’s struggled in the rebounding department all season long.
Foul shooting and turnovers are areas that Rhode Island will have to clean up if they’re to make a run at winning the Atlantic 10, but with players such as Matthews and Martin they have the pieces needed to contend. A team many figured was a year away from contending before the season began, the future is now for Dan Hurley’s Rams.
Briante Weber suffers season-ending knee injury in No. 14 VCU’s loss to Richmond
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.
2014-2015 Season Preview: Treveon Graham, VCU enter as favorites in the Atlantic 10
The Atlantic 10, the Rodney Dangerfield of college basketball, is out to gain the respect yet again in 2014-15. The A-10’s 2013-14 season ended on a positive note, as Dayton, a team that began conference play with a 1-5 record, reached the Elite 8. This year, the league will look to build on that run, although outside of VCU, a top 20 team, there is not much clarity when it comes to the conference’s power structure.
In: Davidson Out: None
FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:
1. Archie Miller stayed: After guiding Dayton an Elite 8 run in March, Miller had a couple of options for leaving the Flyers for a high-major job. He decided to sign an extension at Dayton through 2019. It speaks to the strength of the league when hot coaching commodities like Miller and Shaka Smart continue to spurn Power 5 schools.
2. Rhode Island on the rise: Danny Hurley is in his third season at Rhode Island, and his rebuilding effort has been a major storyline in the A-10. Is this team, led by all-conference guard E.C. Matthews, ready to make the jump this season, or are the Rams still “one year away”?
3. George Washington: In 2013, the A-10 preseason poll predicted a 10th-place finish for Mike Lonergan’s Colonials. After a surprise season, Lonergan has a quartet of juniors — Patricio Garino, Kethan Savage, Joe McDonald and Kevin Larsen — ready to handle preseason hype, as George Washington looks for a second straight NCAA tournament appearance.
4. RPI and non-conference: Last season, eight teams were listed in the RPI top 100, the same number of teams in kenpom.com’s 2014 ratings (with two more just on the outside). The league also boasted non-conference wins over the Virginia, Gonzaga and Creighton last season.
5. Games on NBC Sports Network: There will be 25 Atlantic 10 games broadcasted on the NBC Sports Network. Full schedule is here.
PRESEASON ATLANTIC 10 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Treveon Graham, VCU
The 6-foot-6 Graham should end up going from an under-recruited forward to a conference player of the year with four NCAA tournament appearances. Graham, who averaged 15.8 points 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game as a junior, is a tough matchup for opposing defenses with his physical brand of basketball. Graham wasted little time preparing for his final season in Richmond as he spent the summer at the LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul elite camps.
THE REST OF THE ATLANTIC 10 FIRST TEAM:
Kendall Anthony, Richmond: The diminutive lead guard averaged 15.9 points per game, shooting better than 35 percent from beyond the arc.
DeAndre Bembry, Saint Joseph’s: The co-Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year will be the key for the Hawks this season after they lost three of their top four scorers.
E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island: The 6-foot-5 guard has generated a lot of buzz for himself this summer after a freshman season that ended with sharing A-10 rookie honors with Bembry. Matthews scored 20 or more nine times after January.
Briante Weber, VCU: The defensive catalyst for Havoc recorded 3.5 steals a night for VCU, and could potentially break the Division I record for steals this season.
FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW:
Patricio Garino, George Washington
Cady Lalanne, UMass
Kethan Savage, George Washington
Jordan Sibert, Dayton
Jerrell Wright, La Salle
BREAKOUT STAR: Jordan Price, La Salle
Tyreek Duren and Tyrone Garland both exhausted their eligibility, and they combined to averaged almost 28 points. Dr. John Giannini will look to yet another transfer to anchor the Explorers’ perimeter. Jordan Price, an Auburn transfer, was ranked No. 79 overall recruit by Rivals in 2012. In his lone season with the Tigers, he averaged 5.4 points per game, shooting 39 percent from three.
COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Tom Pecora, Fordham
Tom Pecora holds a 34-85 record as he enters his fifth season at Fordham. Since the 2010-2011 season, the Rams have followed this pattern: seven wins, 10 wins, seven wins, 10 wins, and have finished last three of four years. Fordham will be a young team with nine freshmen and sophomores, compared to six upperclassmen.
ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … : “How many bids will the Atlantic 10 get?”
It’s becoming the annual theme for the Atlantic 10 on Selection Sunday. Five in 2012, six in 2013, but how many this upcoming season? I’d set the line at -4.5, and I would probably take the over. Look at a team like UMass. The Minutemen will play a handful of tournament-caliber teams in the non-conference (LSU, Providence, BYU, Harvard all on the road), so even if they do stumble in the conference play again this season, they have the chance to pick of several quality out of conference wins.
Just look at other teams last season. Dayton defeated Gonzaga in Maui and George Washington knocked off Creighton in December.
I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT : Conference play
Atlantic 10 conference play always seems to be unpredictable. For example, GW was picked to finish 10th in 2013-2014 befor earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. This season should be no different. Some of the better teams still have their questions while other programs appear to be on the rise. No better way to cap of league play than with a four-day stay in Brooklyn.
FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR:
Nov. 24, VCU vs. Villanova (at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn)
1. VCU: A top-15 team heading into the preseason, and with Treveon Graham and Briante Weber, Shaka Smart should be poised to win his first regular season conference title.
2. George Washington: The core of juniors George Washington returns will have to offset the lost production from Mo Creek and Isaiah Armwood. The Coloinals should be able to weather the storm with a healthy Kethan Savage, and a tough defense that forced the third most steals per game last season in the Atlantic 10.
3. Dayton: The Flyers have plenty of returnees from a deep Elite 8 team, but the loss of Devin Oliver and Vee Sanford will hurt.
4. Rhode Island: This is the team to watch this season, because sooner or later the Rams will be near the top of the conference standings.
5. UMass: The Minutemen return our key players and adds West Virginia transfer Jabarie Hinds. Depth will be a concern.
6. Richmond: Chris Mooney dealt with personnel issues late last season, but Richmond has the pieces to be on the right side of the bubble come March.
7. La Salle: The Explorers will have good size on the frontline with 6-foot-11 Steve Zack and the league’s top rebounder Jerrell Wright.
8. Saint Joseph’s: The reigning A-10 Tournament champion lost Langston Galloway, Ronald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic, though, DeAndre Bembry is worth watching.
9. Duquesne: A junior-heavy roster, led by sharpshooter Micah Mason and guard Derrick Colter. Dukes should
10. Saint Louis: It’ll be a rebuilding year for Jim Crews after losing Dwayne Evans and Jordair Jett. Billikens shouldn’t be here long.
11. St. Bonaventure: The Bonnies will likely take a step back after an A-10 Tournament run. Youssou Ndoye, a 7-foot senior, is worth keeping an eye on.
12. Fordham: A young team that will rely on better shot selection from sophomore Jon Severe (17.3 ppg). Eric Paschall could be A-10 Rookie of the Year.
13. Davidson: The Cougars will had their growing pains in their first season in the new conference. Bob McKillop will change that quickly.
14. George Mason: First year as A-10 members didn’t go so well for the Patriots, who need to be better on the road in 2014-2015.