Brooklyn was wonderful. From the Peppas to the fans to the play on the floor, the entire experience rates an A. My goodness, the RamNation...
As for this afternoon, the hole that was dug--beginning with a seven-minute scoring drought that turned the dirt at 11-2--was the biggest problem. That's the part of the game where Saint Louis gets credit.
The Billikens played jersey-thread-counting defense in the lane and denied the wings and VCU was slow to counterpunch. It was an eerily-similar start to the regular season matchup. VCU compounded matters by playing too aggressively and committing silly turnovers.
However VCU eventually settled down in its offense, cranked up havoc, and had Saint Louis nervous. It was a couple bounces here, whistles there, toes-on-the-line here and shots falling there. It became a game where every possession mattered over the last eight minutes.
A 45-32 Billikens lead was trimmed to 46-45 on a Juvonte Reddic dunk. The biggest sequence followed. At 51-48, Kwamain Mitchell bombed in a long three over top of Reddic, a manly shot to give St. Louis a six-point lead. That was a biggie. And what followed was the ultimate gut punch.
VCU climbed back to 54-51 and Rob Brandenberg rose and fired a three. It was from the same spot he drilled the dagger against UMass one night ago. This time, on this day, it caught side iron and the high rebound was corraled by Dwayne Evans.
After about 25 seconds of the shot clock, St. Louis's Cody Ellis buried a three. Instead of potential tie ballgame, the Rams were down six. In a game like that, against a good opponent like that, it felt like more.
Those little plays, those missed shots we normally make. That was the difference. Even in losses, it's always about us. (Here's the VCU atlhetics write up for additional detail.)
VCU lost today, but over the past four days we have a lot to be proud of. And in the words of Shaka Smart:
"We're going to the NCAA tournament next week. If you're not motivated by that you shouldn't be playing."