You wouldn’t think third place in the Battle 4 Atlantis would be such a big deal. But both Mizzou and VCU came indoors out of the sunshine to play a hard-fought contest as the undercard to the Louisville/Duke title game.
Both teams traded buckets down the stretch, but it was Phil Pressey’s timely step-through between two Ram defenders that provided the winning margin. Pressey’s basket came with 14.6 seconds left on the clock, putting the Tigers up by three, but Troy Daniels’ attempt to tie the game fell short. The Tigers claimed a 68-65 win as time expired.
It was a meaningful neutral-court game for two programs preparing to test the waters of new conferences. VCU is a new member of the Atlantic 10 this season, and Missouri is already a favorite to make waves as newbies in the SEC.
Pressey’s heroics in the final minute put him into double figures for the night. He ended with 11 points, 8 assists and 5 turnovers against VCU’s pressing defense. Pressey’s busy night as a distributor paid dividends for his teammates as well. Earnest Ross (11 points) and Negus Webster-Chan (12 points) helped Missouri keep pace with VCU, going a combined 5-11 from behind the arc. Laurence Bowers led all scorers with 14 points, and chipped in a game-high 11 boards as well.
VCU got 12 points apiece from Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic, but fell to 3-3 on the season. Mizzou is now 5-1, with a relatively easy stretch of four games against lesser oponents before the Braggin’ Rights game against Illinois on December 22, followed by a Dec. 28th trip to No. 11 UCLA.
This had to be disappointing for VCU players and coaches. Even though they’ve moved to a competitive, multi-bid league, early season wins against power-conference opponents are crucial to their chances of nabbing a post-season Big Dance invite. A December game against Alabama and former Rams coach Anthony Grant will be the last BCS test before A-10 play begins.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.