- Associated Press - Friday, March 7, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia Commonwealth only played at its preferred pace for a brief time in its game against Richmond, and after trailing all night, they used that burst to fashion an 18-3 burst and went on to beat the Spiders 56-50, sweeping the season series from their city rivals.

Treveon Graham led the Rams with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and said the spree was much needed, and appreciated.

“It’s amazing when it starts to click,” he said of runs like the one that lifted VCU from an 11-point deficit to a four-point lead. “When shots start falling, you can do pretty much anything. Defensively we already were stopping them. … It’s hard to stop us when everything’s clicking, play good ‘O’ and defense.”

The burst gave VCU its first lead of the night, and even though Richmond pulled even at 44, the short-handed Spiders were finished. Coach Chris Mooney was reluctant to say his team ran out of gas, but with just seven players in the rotation, they seemed to have nothing left once VCU made its charge.


“By keeping the pace of the game slower, we held onto ourselves and were pretty fresh throughout the game,” he said.

It all changed in the Rams’ run, which came right after the Spiders had used an 11-2 surge helped by nine straight misses from the field for VCU.

Richmond led 37-26, but Graham was one of four Rams to hit 3-pointers as VCU (23-7, 11-4 Atlantic 10) picked up the pace considerably.

“When we got down, in a strange way, that actually helped us because we got down 10, 11 points and that’s when our guys were finally like, ‘Forget it. Let’s play our type of basketball and we got more aggressive,” VCU coach Shaka Smart said.

The game still went down to the closing second, but Graham added two key free throws with 6 seconds to make it 54-50. They came after Richmond’s Kendall Anthony missed an attempt at a tying layup Alonzo Nelson-Ododa missed a wide open tip-in in front of the basket for the Spiders (18-12, 8-7 Atlantic 10).

Anthony led the Spiders with 20 points, but missed 12 of 18 from the field.

The victory pulled VCU into a tie for second in the A-10 with Saint Joseph’s with one game remaining, and was the third loss in a row for Richmond. The Spiders lost scoring leader Cedrick Lindsay to injuries to both knees and had forward Derrick Williams leave the team days apart in the beginning of the month.

VCU trailed throughout until JeQuan Lewis’ layup near the end of the big run gave them their first lead at 42-40 with 8:57 to play. Juvonte Reddic’s basket made it 44-40 to go but the big damage came from outside as Graham, Melvin Johnson, Jordan Burgess and Rob Brandenberg all hit 3-pointers in the spree.

Four free throws by Anthony pulled the Spiders even again at 44, but Moe Alie-Cox scored inside, Johnson hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key and Graham scored three points as VCU finished the game scoring 12 of the last 18 points to avenge a difficult loss at the Robins Center a season ago.

In that game, the Rams blew a 7-point lead in the final 42 seconds of regulation and lost in overtime.

Richmond scored just two points in a span of 7:11 in the first half, and still led 12-8 when Nelson-Ododa broke the drought with a dunk. VCU scored just four points and turned the ball over five times during the Spiders’ dry spell. Ododa’s dunk sparked an 11-3 run for Richmond, giving them a 21-11 lead with 5:17 to play. The Rams got six points in an 11-4 burst to close the half trailing 26-22.

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