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Shaka Smart’s Finest Hour: VCU Wins A-10 Championship

Briante Weber, Treveon Graham and Melvin Johnson celebrate - photo by Audry Dubon (audryexposed.wordpress.com)

Briante Weber, Treveon Graham and Melvin Johnson celebrate – photo by Audry Dubon (audryexposed.wordpress.com)

After two straight failed attempts at winning the A10 title in consecutive years, VCU won their conference championship today, beating Dayton 71-65. The Rams and Flyers went back and forth the entire the second half, trading runs just like VCU did with Davidson a day ago. But it was Shaka Smart’s team that came out on top in Brooklyn. 

The teams traded leads early in the first ten minutes of the game until Dayton made the first strong push with a Jordan Sibert three pointer capping off an 11-0 Dayton run with eight minutes left in the first half, putting the Flyers up 18-12.

VCU ended the run and a six minute scoreless drought when Treveon Graham drove through the lane and made a tough layup while being fouled. That was the beginning of a Rams 10-0 run, which included a steal and dunk by Mo Alie-Cox and was ended after a Graham 3-ball.

JeQuan Lewis hit a pray of a three with two seconds left in the first half to give VCU a 33-26 lead at the break. Early in the second half, the Rams had their largest lead of the game of 42-32 when Mo Alie-Cox beat a slow to get back Dayton defense for an easy layup.

After some yelling from Archie Miller, Dayton took control of the next five minutes, going on an 11-1 run to tie the game up at 43 with 11 minutes left. The run was highlighted by Sibert ripping the ball away from Graham and taking it coast-to-coast and finishing with a dandy of a layup.

The game stayed tight for its remainder, with VCU leading by a few points until Dyshawn Pierre hit a big time three ball with three minutes left to tie the game at 55.

The teams then traded a few buckets, each one getting tougher than the next, until Treveon Graham split a pair of defenders to finish an incredibly tough layup towards the end of the shot clock with just over a minute left.

On the ensuing Dayton possession, Doug Brooks stole the ball away from Scoochie Smith and found JeQuan Lewis for a left-handed layup, giving VCU the last four point lead they would need.

As the clock struck zero Briante Weber was one of the first on the floor, crying in the arms of Treveon Graham as the two senior leaders were finally champions.

VCU was led by the tournament MVP, Graham, who finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Graham and his Rams were playing for injuried guard Weber, who tore his ACL, MCL, and Meniscus on January 31 against Richmond.

On the night of the injury, Shaka Smart told Weber that they were going to win the championship, and that Weber would be the one to cut down the last snippet of the net, an honor usually saved for the head coach. That is exactly what happened as Weber’s teammates worked as one to get him up the ladder to cut down the rest of the net. As he stood on top of the ladder he let out a loud yell as he swung the recently frayed net over his head before putting it around his neck and wearing it like it was the most expensive necklace in the jewelry shop.

Briante Weber cuts down the net - photo by Scott Zolotorow

Briante Weber cuts down the net – photo by Scott Zolotorow

The Rams had another big game out of JeQuan Lewis who finished with 15 points and 4 assists. Terry Larrier and Mo Alie-Cox both added 13 points for VCU. Alie-Cox was named to the all-tournament team alongside teammate Treveon Graham.

DyShawn Pierre finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Flyers while Sibert and Scoochie Smith finished with 14 and 16 respectively. Kendall Pollard, who was also named to the all-tournament team, finished with 13.

 

Scott Zolotorow