When the final buzzer sounded in the Robins Center Thursday night at the Black & Blue Classic, students poured onto the court to celebrate with the Spiders, who had just won the title of best basketball team in Richmond by triumphing 86-74 in overtime over Virginia Commonwealth University.
VCU fans had already begun to file out of the stadium with 30 seconds left in the game, reluctantly relinquishing the bragging rights they had earned last year with the Rams' victory on their home court.
Throughout the game, Richmond and VCU fans took turns standing and yelling for their teams with volumes seldom heard in the Robins Center.
The sold-out arena was a sea of red with significant patches of yellow-clad VCU fans who numbered an estimated 2,000.
When the score became tied in the second half, Richmond began a chorus of the traditional cheers, "We are U-R." This was quickly matched by Rams fans chanting, "V-C-U."
Darien Brothers saved the Spiders with a three-pointer with just 1.5 seconds left to force the game into overtime. From that point, many in the Richmond crowd stood and never stopped shouting. The Spiders controlled the remaining five minutes, and Brothers, along with leading scorer Kendall Anthony, gestured toward the crowd for more noise.
VCU guard Troy Daniels had said at a press conference on Tuesday that one of the reasons he enjoyed playing on the road was defeating a team on its home court and hearing the crowd go silent. But instead Daniels heard the singing of "Hit the Road Jack" at the end of overtime.
Though the win was surely sweet for the Spiders, and the loss heartbreaking for the Rams, earlier in the week, both coaches had said the rivalry was, in part, built up by the fanfare.
VCU coach Shaka Smart said he thought that the rivalry meant more to some of the fans than the players, and that his team had been "business-like" in the days leading up to the game.
When Smart first took the Rams' coaching position four years ago, people told him they didn't care if he won games except against Richmond and Old Dominion University, he said.
"We always want to win," he said. "It just so happens that the bus ride we take to the game [Thursday] will be very short."
Richmond coach Chris Mooney said he also thought the competitive spirit helped bring the city together. "I think basketball is pretty important in Richmond," he said. "To have two teams in the same city is unique and fun."
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All week before the game, students from both schools traded barbs through social media with hashtags such as, #BeatVCU and #URhateweek.
Casey Glick, a member the Richmond Rowdies, said that the Rowdies had come up with their hashtag before they had known about #URhateweek.
"Hate has a lot of strong connotations that we don't really want to get into," he said. "I think our #BeatVCU hashtag gets the message done."
Many of the VCU tweets preceding #URhateweek made fun of Richmond's stereotype as having a wealthy student body and little school spirit. On Sunday the Rowdy Rams tweeted: "Too bad UR Rowdies blocked us, could have been a much more fun week with all 5 of them talking smack to the 1,500 of us. #URhateweek."
Richmond Rowdies member Josh Grice created a video that was posted to YouTube Tuesday night called "UR Better than VCU." The video poked fun of the Rams, as Rowdies members pretended to barbeque and eat a stuffed ram, tackle a VCU fan and run over a VCU t-shirt with a truck, which with the help of special effects, burst into flames.
The video was lighthearted and was intended to spur the rivalry, Glick said.
The rivalry between Richmond and VCU dates back to 1976. Although the teams have only played once a season in recent years, this year VCU joined the Atlantic 10 conference alongside Richmond, making the Classic the first of two scheduled games.
A VCU fan at the game, senior Akrin Chinnery, said he thought that the rivalry had become more important since his school joined the A-10. But VCU graduate Rae Czekanski said she thought Old Dominion University was a bigger rival. Neither Chinnery nor Czekanski foresaw any serious arguments or fights between fans.
"At least I hope not," Chinnery said at halftime.
Richmond policeman John Jacobs said that it was unlikely he would have had to break up any fights between fans.
The police's main concern was ushering the incoming traffic and helping visitors find parking, Jacobs said.
Contact reporter Avery Shackelford at firstname.lastname@example.org
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