VCU still slays on the road

2/17/2017, 7:53 p.m.
The road, almost no matter where it led, used to be a scary proposition for Virginia Commonwealth University basketball.
Virginia Commonwealth University’s Moe Alie-Cox goes up to block a shot from Jack Gibbs of Davidson College during last Saturday’s game at the Siegel Center. The Rams beat Davidson 74-60. James Haskins/Richmond Free Press

The road, almost no matter where it led, used to be a scary proposition for Virginia Commonwealth University basketball.

Much has changed of late, and that’s encouraging because the current VCU Rams basketball team faces three daunting trips as the regular season ticks down.

VCU, which has a 20-5 record after its 74-60 home win last Saturday over Davidson College, plays the University of Richmond on Friday, Feb. 17, then heads off to play the University of Rhode Island Saturday, Feb. 25, and then the University of Dayton on Wednesday, March 1.

Those top-tier, Atlantic 10 Conference foes were a combined 27-9 in the conference starting this week. The Rams are tied for first with the University of Dayton with 10-2 conference marks. Then comes UR, with a 9-3 record, and the University of Rhode Island at 8-4.

Under Coach Will Wade, the Rams have the right to boast “Who’s afraid of the big, bad road?”

VCU is 6-2 for away games this season and an impressive 13-6 in Coach Wade’s two seasons. The most recent victories away from the Siegel Center resulted in head-spinning finishes that went the black and gold way.

At St. Bonaventure University, a technical foul on the home team with 0.5 seconds left enabled the Rams to tie in regulation on a free throw by VCU’s JeQuan Lewis and win in overtime 83-77.

There was a mere 0.4 seconds left when VCU drew a foul 90 feet from the basket on host George Washington University on Feb. 8. Lewis coolly made two free throws for the Rams’ 54-53 win.

Cynics insist the Rams had a rabbit’s foot in their pocket. VCU might counter that good luck is the result of perspiration and preparation.

Between 1986 and 2003, the Rams made the NCAA Tournament field just once, in 1996, largely because of the team’s inability to win outside of Richmond under Coaches Mike Pollio, Sonny Smith and Mack McCarthy.

VCU was 4-18 in away games during Coach Smith’s final two years and 12-36 on the road in Coach McCarthy’s four seasons.

There were numerous horror stories along the way.

Feb. 2, 2002, at James Madison University: With the score tied 65-65 and 1 second left, JMU inbounded at the far end of the court. A length-of-floor pass bounced between the legs of Ram L.F. Likcholitov and directly to a Dukes player, who laid it in for the 67-65 win. The Globetrotters couldn’t have done it better.

Jan. 11, 1975, at the University of Maine: Perhaps VCU’s all-time road nightmare. The Final score: Maine 91, VCU 90, but the Rams actually scored more points. In the early going, Maine was awarded two points it hadn’t scored and the error was never detected until it was too late. VCU Coach Chuck Noe pleaded with Maine officials for a reversal. Maine didn’t disagree that the mistake had occurred but said the end-of-game strategy would have been totally different if the scoreboard was correct. Also, it was VCU’s duty to monitor the count at the scorer’s table. The Rams traveled with a skeleton crew in those days.