“Whatever! We’ll see you in the tournament!”
A fan of the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams yelled this spitefully over the cheers of the few fans of the opposing team in the Siegel Center on Saturday. He was upset, and rightfully so – his team’s 12-game win streak had just been ended by the Richmond Spiders, a team that had not won a road game and is led by a 5-foot-8-inch point guard.
That player, of course, is Kendall Anthony, and he is nothing short of terrific, as VCU coach Shaka Smart described him. Anthony, who had just two points in the first half, scored 20 points in the final 20 minutes to lead his Spiders to a signature win against the rival Rams.
“Just the toughest kid I’ve ever been around,” Richmond coach Chris Mooney said of Anthony, who scored 12 of his 22 points in the final six minutes. “He has earned every bit of accolade or congratulations that he gets.”
Smart showed respect for Anthony’s stamina and energy throughout the second half. “He did not really wear down today,” he said. “He just kept playing and kept attacking.”
Despite Anthony’s stellar second half, the narrative seemed all too familiar until the Spiders closed the game out in the final 30 seconds. Down by six points, VCU’s star forward Treveon Graham hit a 15-foot jump shot to narrow the lead to four.
The arena erupted with cheers, as it did after every VCU score, and it seemed that the Spiders were going to let yet another lead slip away late on the road.
But the script was different this time. After Graham’s shot, Terry Allen drew a foul and made both of his free throws. Anthony did the same 12 seconds later. The Spiders had done the improbable, and to ice the cake, Alonzo Nelson-Ododa threw down a vicious transition dunk with four seconds left.
Richmond beat the No. 14 team in the nation 64-55.
The best part, though, is how the Spiders won. After allowing the Rams to build an 11-point lead late in the first half, Richmond went on a 21-4 run to take a seven-point lead midway through the second half. The team did not surrender the lead for the rest of the game.
The Spiders played suffocating defense in the second half, contesting every shot and limiting the Rams to 36 percent from the field. They also out-rebounded VCU by 12 boards, which helped the Spiders earn second-chance opportunities late in the game and limited the Rams to just one shot on almost every possession.
The Rams, who usually excel at rebounding offensively, did not score a single second-chance point. Mo Alie-Cox, VCU’s best offensive rebounder and most intimidating player, said the Spiders had tried harder to rebound. “They just wanted it more on the glass, for real,” he said.
Richmond’s Trey Davis, who led all players with 10 rebounds, said the team emphasized rebounding and playing strong defense. “We felt like if we could defend and rebound, that would put us in a good spot to win the game,” he said.
With the win, the Spiders improve to 12-9 (5-3), while the Rams drop to 17-4 (7-1). More important than the record is the momentum and confidence that the Spiders will now have after out-wreaking the Havoc on VCU's home court.
Anthony didn’t hype up the win too much, but he did express relief having finally won a road game after seven straight losses to begin the season.
“Playing here is really hard,” he said of the Siegel Center. “It feels good to come out on top.”