The VCU Rams blew out the Davidson Wildcats 93-73 in the Semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Championship on Saturday afternoon at Barclays Center.
Davidson jumped out to a 16-4 lead, powered by 9 points from Jordan Barham and 7 points from Friday afternoon’s star, Tyler Kalinoski. VCU responded with an 8-0, with 5 points from Terry Larrier. That was just the start, a VCU took a 24-23 lead on free throws by Mo Alie-Cox with 6:05 left in the first half. That was the beginnings of a big run by VCU which saw them take a 44-28 lead into halftime, completing an extended 40-12 run.
In the second half, VCU led 55-33 on a three-point play from Jordan Burgess. From that point, Davidson got back in it, with a 19-2 run, led by three 2-pointers from Kalinosky, that pulled them back to within five points, at 57-52, with 10:18 left in the game.
VCU responded with the decisive run of the game, a 10-0 spurt led by four points by Mo Alie-Cox. That made it 67-52 with 7:54 left, and VCU never looked back, maintaining that 12-point edge right until the end.
VCU: Treveon Graham – 18 points on 7-for-10 from the field, 4-4 on threes, 9 rebounds, and 2 assists. Mo Alie Cox – 18 points on 5-8 shooting, 8-10 on free throws, and 8 rebounds. JeQuan Cox had 13 points on 2-for-8 shooting, 2-4 on threes, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Davidson: Tyler Kalinosky – 19 points on 7-for-16 from the field, 4-8 on threes, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, and 3 assists. Jordan Barham – 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting, 1-2 on threes, and 6 rebounds. Jack Gibbs – 18 points on 4-for-11 from the field, 1-7 on threes, 9-10 on free throws, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.
VCU Head Coach Shaka Smith: “It was a great game. I thought obviously the final score really doesn’t illustrate how competitive the game was and how hotly contested it was. Davidson is obviously a terrific team, as evidenced by the way that they beat us nine days ago.
“I do want to say that, I think what they did in the Atlantic 10 regular season is historic and truly amazing. Somebody asked me a week or two ago if I was surprised, and I said no, because I know how successful Coach McKillop and his teams have been.
“But we researched it; when we came to the Atlantic 10 a few years ago, nobody has really ever done what they have done in terms of going from a conference ranked in the 20s in the RPI to a top seven or eight league in the country and in the first season, won it.”
“What’s really impressive is nobody has really talked about lately, they did it without Jack Gibbs for, I don’t know, six or eight games. Take my hat off to them and says a lot about our guys that we were able to come out and beat them today. And now we’re excited about moving forward to tomorrow.”
Q. You mentioned yesterday that the game against Richmond was a big game for you confidencewise. Is today’s game what you meant by that?
COACH SMART: “You mean the way we played today? Yeah, I think the Richmond game yesterday really helped us today. Hopefully today’s game will help us with tomorrow. But Richmond had beat us two straight games. The second one was really, really tough one to take because we were up three with seven seconds left, and we just didn’t finish it out.
“So for us to be able to come back when they were out for most of the second half and beat them, I think that gave our guys a level of belief. Bri (Briante Weber) really has provided a swagger for us for three and a half years, and when he went out so abruptly, we had to kind of find ourselves again. Not so much in terms of how we played, but in terms of who we are and our identity. So these two games have been big in helping reshape that.”
Q. You had to come back early in the first half and then hold off their comeback in the second half. Do you feel like you absorbed two body blows and handled them well?
VCU forward MO ALIE- COX: That’s what we work on every day. We have a drill in practice called poise or panic, and it pretty much gets us ready for game situations like that when we go down, how we are going to respond and come back. That’s something Coach always preaches to us is response, ability to focus on the next more important thing and that’s what we did today.
VCU guard TREVEON GRAHAM: “Not really, I mean, what mostly we always work on, so it’s nothing new to us when that happens.”
Q. Very different game. Nine days ago. How much of an inspiration was that result from today? You had plenty of incentive anyway, but did that also give you some incentive?
TREVEON GRAHAM: Yeah, it did. It was humiliated when we were down there. So we just wanted to come out and play our game. When we played at Davidson, we wasn’t playing our game, it was impressive, stayed down pretty much. So wanted to come out here and really just attack from the getgo.
Q. You had your ups and downs since Briante (Weber) went out. Do you feel like you fully adjusted without him?
TREVEON GRAHAM: I think we adjusted to what we have. Nobody’s going to take the place of Briante. So we just have to use what we have. Johnny and JeQuan really has been coming through at the point guard position. So we are trying let them become better point guards.
MO ALIE-COX: “Yeah, just going on what Tre said, Coach said we needed to do three things better and we would pretty much be successful, have a little more talk, energy and enthusiasm and those are things Briante does very well. So he said if the rest of the team brought a little bit more of that, he said we would do well, and I think we started to bring a lot of that stuff.”
Q. Talk about the pace of the game. There was one point where they started, they were on a 16-4 run and you were on a 40-12 run and they went on a 16-0 run and then in the second half after that last run, there was like 31 fouls called so it was hard to get a pace going. Talk about how that affected the attitude of the game.
MO ALIE-COX: “We just tried to stay focused. Coach, he had us in huddle, I think they had cut it to 12 media timeout, he said, we’re good, we’re good, just focus on the next thing and control what you can control, and we just tried to go back into attacking mindset because it kind of went zone and threw us off a little bit and Johnny made plays.”
Davidson Head Coach Bob McKillop: “I think it was Lou Holtz that said, nothing is as good as it seems and nothing is as bad as it seems; the exuberance of the locker room 24 hours ago versus the sadness in the locker loom today, quite a contrast. Despite it all, congratulations to VCU, and I couldn’t be more proud of the magnificent Atlantic 10 that Davidson College and these guys, these leaders, have had for us.”
Q. What were you thinking when you were making this comeback in the second half again and got it down to five, and why were you not able to come all the way back?
Coach McKillop: “We mixed up defenses. We made shots. We got stops. And Treveon Graham hit a three from the right guard spot, the right alley spot, and I think it was Jonathan Williams made a drive through the crack of the zone and made a runner from the foul line. I think those two shots kind of got them feeling a little bit more confident and it loosened our zone up.
“Again, we have to take the ball out of the net, grab it in off the backboard. That disrupts your flow and your rhythm and that’s what happened when they are running the first half. We didn’t get stops.
“The reason we didn’t get stops I think was because our quick decisions with shooting the ball was not the way it was a week ago, two weeks ago. We let them dictate in the game of decisions. And it is a game of decisions, not mistakes, and we made some quick decisions in that eightminute period, and as a result, they got out running; and there was nothing we could do to defend them in transition, and many of their shots occurred in transition.”
Davidson Guard Tyler Kalinoski:
Q. Tyler, talk about the pace of the game, how it maybe wore you guys out or the confidence and stuff.
TYLER KALINOSKI: You know, when they went on their run in the first half, the main thing why they went on that run is we didn’t get stops. They made baskets, their full court press, it kind of pressures us and we took some bad shots offensively, which led to them getting good shots. I mean, we knew it was going to be an upanddown game. We knew it was going to be a street fight. We knew they were going to make a run. We knew we were going to make a run.”
How difficult is it when they are scoring and defense
TYLER KALINOSKI: “Yeah, they did a great job pressuring the ball, speeding teams up. Like Brian said, I thought when we played them at home, we did a great job of handling that pressure, slowing down, taking good shots. And especially in the first half when they went on that run, they kind of sped us up. We were taking some bad shots which led to them running out and getting some open looks and then they knocked them down.”