Maynor drives through heavy traffic to the rack
The 78th matchup between arch-rivals Old Dominion University and Virginia Commonwealth University was a classic. After losing in Norfolk to the Rams on Jan. 19, 78-68, Saturday night in primetime on ESPN2 the visiting Monarchs stuffed an upset down the Rams throats before a sold-out (7,592) Siegel Center crowd.
VCU was ahead of ODU by six points with 2:10 remaining in the contest, but this time the home team couldn’t close the deal. The Rams lost on their floor for the first time this season: ODU 67, VCU 66.
Monarchs guard Brian Henderson (Varina High) took over the affair in the last two minutes of play, hitting three jumpers for eight points and stealing the ball from Eric Maynor on the Rams’ last possession. He hit eight of 10 shots from the field to pace ODU’s offense with 20 points.
“I’ve been waiting for this a long time,” said Henderson, a senior, referring to the fact this was his first win on the Rams floor.
“It was a tough way to lose,” said VCU head coach Anthony Grant, who had a costly technical foul called on him in the middle of the second half. After admitting that call hurt the team he said, “We’ve got to do a better job of managing the end of the game.”
Eric Maynor, VCU’s star guard, scored 25 points and grabbed six rebounds. But in the last two minutes of play, after being knocked down hard, he turned the ball over twice, committed three fouls and scored zero points in the face of ODU’s furious rally. Maynor's usual ability to be at his best when it counts most was absent this time.
It was a physical game in which the referees let the guys play, which may not have been such a good thing for the Rams. VCU has struggled at times this season against big teams that knock them around, especially when the officials allow a lot of contact. At such times they miss last year's enforcer who graduated, Jess Pellot-Rosa.
The atmosphere for the tilt was high volume with lots of yellow on display in the partisan crowd. As it turned out, the two hours of Colonial Athletic Association action was a good showcase for the conference on national television.
The crowd behind the basket mugs for the ESPN camera
Although VCU maintains a two-game lead on Mason and UNC-Wilmington, with just three league games remaining, this loss dealt a serious blow to the Rams prospect of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA postseason tournament, should they not win the league’s tournament at the Richmond Coliseum next month.
VCU leads in the all-time series with ODU 39-37. VCU's all-time record at the Siegel Center (1999-present) is 107-20.
VCU — 19-6, 12-3 in CAA
Mason — 18-8, 10-5 in CAA
UNC-W — 17-10, 10-5 in CAA
Wm.&M — 13-12, 9-6 in CAA
ODU — 14-13, 9-6 in CAA
Northeastern — 12-13, 8-7 in CAA
Delaware — 11-14, 8-7 in CAA
Towson — 10-15, 6-9 in CAA
Hofstra — 9-16, 6-9 in CAA
JMU — 11-14, 4-11 in CAA
Drexel — 11-16, 4-11 in CAA
Georgia St. — 7-18, 4-11 in CAA
– Words and photos by F.T. Rea