Article by Tim Pearrell of the Richmond Times-Dispatch
Finally, an ending for VCU that wasn’t miraculous.
After dramatic endings in road victories over St. Bonaventure and George Washington, the Rams got 27 points from JeQuan Lewis, shut down Davidson’s Peyton Aldridge, engaged their inside game after halftime and pulled away for a 74-60 victory at the Siegel Center on Saturday.
VCU (20-5, 10-2) won its sixth consecutive game, maintained pace with Dayton atop the Atlantic 10 and reached 20 wins for the 11th consecutive season.
The Rams weren’t able to close out late leads in the past two games, necessitating heroics. A 16-5 run in the second half gave them separation, and this time they floored it.
“We’ve been playing with fire, and usually when people play with fire, they end up getting burned,” Lewis said. “We wanted to do everything we could to stay out of it.”
Aggressive defense on Davidson’s Jack Gibbs and Aldridge helped. They’re the second-highest scoring teammates in the country, averaging 20.9 points and 21.1, respectively.
In Davidson’s 69-63 victory at Davidson on Jan. 14, Gibbs went off for 30 and Aldridge had 24 points and 12 rebounds. Gibbs had 27 points on Saturday but had to work for them, connecting on 10 of 24 shots.
VCU had problems in the first game matching up with Aldridge, a 6-foot-8 forward who can score inside, shoot 3-pointers and facilitate. This time, they used 6-7 Justin Tillman, 6-7 Mo Alie-Cox and 6-5 Jordan Burgess to guard him.
Alie-Cox, who normally lurks around the post area as a shot-blocker, sometimes came out to the perimeter to shadow Aldridge. He was 2 of 13 and scored 6 points.
“I knew if I could be physical with him … “ Alie-Cox said. “When he did get it in the post, he always wants to come back to his right hand, and I took it away. I took pride in my defense. He’s their leading scorer. I just tried to take him out of the game as much as possible.”
The Wildcats, after an opening salvo of 3-pointers, scored 26 points in the 12:08 of the game. They scored 34 in the last 27:52.
“You saw how Peyton was frustrated,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “2 for 13, very uncharacteristic for him, and some of those shots weren’t even close.”
Lewis has been somewhat quiet of late. In a matchup with Gibbs, he was aggressive early and was 8 of 13, bombing in four 3-pointers.
“I just wanted to be more aggressive,” Lewis said. “We lost to them last time, so I kind of had a personal grudge.”
Gibbs is “a great player,” Lewis said. “I love going against good guards. It just makes me play harder.”
VCU has been prone to giving up big numbers to a player or two this season. Gibbs, Richmond’s ShawnDre’ Jones and St. Bonaventure’s Matt Mobley all have torched the Rams for at least 30 points.
Wade said his players “all wanted JeQuan to get 30 because I’ve been just going nuts about all these guys scoring 30 on us.”
“I told them this week the reason none of y’all have gone for 30 is because you haven’t played against our defense,” Wade said. “They were all laughing. They wanted me to keep JeQuan in.”
Davidson (12-11, 5-7) had an antidote for VCU’s big men in the first game, clogging the lane and limiting the production of Rams big men Alie-Cox, Tillman and Ahmed Hamdy.
That worked in the first half (combined 9 points) before the trio got untracked and scored 20 points in the second.
“The first game, I did a poor job,” Wade said. “We had a poor plan. We kept trying to score in the post on (Will) Magarity and Andrew (McAuliffe). You’ve got to make Aldridge guard down there, too.
“We threw the ball into Tillman a little bit more than we typically do in the post. We tried to make (Aldridge) have to exert some energy defensively to guard us, which hopeful led to some of his poor shooting on offense. We kind of let them off the hook in the first game. We didn’t really go at him down in the post.”
Tillman, who has scored in double figures in 11 consecutive games, finished with 13 points and 16 rebounds, his third consecutive double-double.
“The first half I wasn’t finishing,” Tillman said. “The second half I just knew I had to pick it up, so I was a little more aggressive.”
Alie-Cox scored 10 points, and Hamdy added 6.
“You’re talking about three pretty darn good front-court players,” McKillop said. “We were maybe a little bit cautious foul trouble-wise, which they had done a great job of attacking us. They won the battle.”