After being re-introduced to the Top-25 in the latest AP poll, the Virginia Commonwealth Rams will try to prove they belong when they square off with cross-town rivals, the Richmond Spiders at the Siegel Center on Wednesday night in Atlantic 10 Conference action.
Richmond has simply been a middle-of-the-road squad in the A-10 this season, as it has gone 17-12 overall but just 7-7 in league play. The Spiders were riding a three-game win streak heading into their latest outing, but they dropped a tough decision at Dayton on Saturday, 78-74, to fall to 3-9 on the road.
VCU has bounced in and out of the back half of the Top-25 a few times this season, and it is was granted the No. 21 ranking in the latest poll after a couple of strong victories at Xavier (75-71) and versus Butler (84-52) in recent weeks. The Rams are now an outstanding 23-6 overall, and at 11-3 in the A-10, they are just a game back of Saint Louis for first place with two games remaining.
Richmond upset VCU on Jan. 24 on its home floor, 86-74, although the Rams still lead the all-time series, 41-26.
The Spiders kept their latest game tight throughout, even tying the contest, 58-58, with seven minutes left to play, but they could never take control in the second half as the Flyers handed them the defeat. They had an outstanding shooting day, making 55.3 percent of their overall attempts (including 9-of-18 from 3-point range), with Cedrick Lindsay leading the way with 22 points and seven assists. Darien Brothers had a busy afternoon from long range (4-of-8) on his way to 19 points, while Derrick Williams tacked on 17 points in the losing effort. Richmond is typically a strong scoring team with 70.0 ppg, but in the high-flying A-10, that number ranks just seventh-best. Brothers paces four players in double figures with 14.9 ppg, draining 75 3-pointers at a 42.6 percent clip. Williams adds 12.3 ppg and a team-best 5.6 rpg, while Kendall Anthony (12.0 ppg) and Lindsay (11.3 ppg) are also in the midst of stellar campaigns.
Not only did VCU down Butler over the weekend in a marquee matchup, but it made a statement in the 32-point blowout victory by shooting 48.3 percent from the field with 10 3-pointers while goading the Bulldogs into 23 turnovers. Troy Daniels led the way with 20 points, Juvonte Reddic, Treveon Graham and Briante Weber all poured in 11, and while Darius Theus scored just eight points, he dished out nine assists and came up with five steals. The Rams are used to posting high point totals, as their 77.6 ppg is tops in the conference, and they have joined the ranks of the elite this season by also playing outstanding defense (63.2 ppg). The balanced attack is paced by the efforts of Graham, who averages 15.5 ppg and hauls in 6.0 rpg. Nipping at his heels is Reddic, who is one of the league's best forwards with 14.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.4 spg and 0.9 bpg, all while shooting nearly 58 percent from the field. Daniels (12.5 ppg) has dropped in an A-10-best 104 3-pointers at a 40.8 percent rate, and Rob Brandenburg brings 10.6 ppg to the mix.