VCU Beats the Buzzer and UVa
Charlottesville - Treveon Graham of VCU moved into position a few steps behind the 3-point line and waited.
As Rob Brandenburg drove to his right with the shot clock ticking down, Graham eyed the play from the left side of the arc, and when Virginia closed Brandenburg off, he fired a pass back to Graham, who swished in the game-winner.
"Those are shots that I take almost every day in practice," Graham said of the shot with 1.1 seconds left that gave the 14th-ranked Rams a 59-56 victory over No. 25 Virginia. "I was confident enough to know if Rob would throw it back, I could make it."
The game was much anticipated as a matchup of defensive-minded teams with completely different styles, and while the Cavaliers dictated the pace almost all night, turning it into a half-court struggle, the Rams had the right guy at the finish.
"He can get to the rim. He can offensive rebound, and he can put the dagger in you like he did with the 3-ball," Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said of Graham, who scored 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting. The rest of VCU was 16 of 43.
VCU coach Shaka Smart said Graham is only beginning to know his potential.
"His career has just started the second half," Smart said of the junior, who averaged 15.8 points last season. "And if he keeps getting better the way he has, he's going to make a whole lot more of those kinds of shots."
And his talent doesn't end there.
The Rams (2-0) trailed for almost all of the final 10 minutes until Graham fed Jordan Burgess for a wide-open 3-pointer from the right side, then stole the ball and drove for a baseline jumper that gave them a 56-55 lead with 1:18 left.
On a night when Virginia made just 19 of 33 free throws, Malcolm Brogdon hit the second of two with 9.7 seconds left for the Cavaliers (1-1), tying the game and allowing the Rams to call time out and set up the final play.
Joe Harris led Virginia with 18 points, but he missed two free throws with 3:58 to play and Virginia trying to extend a 53-49 lead. The Cavaliers scored just three points in the last 4:57 and missed four of their final six free throws.
With Harris leading the way, the Cavaliers used an 11-2 run to take command midway through the second half and threatened to put the game away. But Graham scored twice in close, and followed a jumper by Brogdon with a free throw.
The Rams still trailed 55-49 until Juvonte Reddic's putback stuff with 2:44 to play sparked a 7-0 run.
The Rams won despite missing 9 of 15 free throws and shooting 41 percent (24 of 58) from the field.
Virginia shot 57.6 percent at the line (19 of 33) and 39 percent from the field (18 of 46).
The meeting was the first between the schools since 1998, and was highly anticipated. It was announced as the first sellout of a non-conference game since 2007, although the crowd of 13,881 was below John Paul Jones Arena's 14,593-seat capacity.
The Rams led most of the first half by driving to the basket and either drawing fouls or making shots from close in. Virginia made only three field goals in the first 13 minutes, but used a late 10-0 run to lead 26-24 at halftime.
The Rams had 15 fouls at the half, and had seven players with two each.
Virginia had 12 fouls, and four players with two apiece.
Notes from UVa athletics:
The Cavaliers are now 10-2 all-time against VCU
Virginia fell to 7-14 against ranked opponents in the Tony Bennett era (3-3 vs. ranked non-conference opponents)
UVa's 12.5% shooting from 3-point range (1-8) was its lowest since 12.5% (1-8) vs. Tennessee on Dec. 5, 2012
The Cavaliers lost when leading at the half for the first time since March 3, 2013 at Boston College (lost 53-52, led 25-24 at half)
Joe Harris (18 pts) scored in double figures for the 70th time in his career
Malcolm Brogdon (10 pts) scored in double figures for the sixth time in his career
Player Career Highs
Mike Tobey had a career-high nine rebounds
Virginia Record Book
Joe Harris (1,278 pts) moved into 26th place on Virginia's all-time scoring list, passing Tony Laquintano (1,263 pts, 1960-62)
Virginia Head Coach Tony Bennett
On the last minutes of the game:
"We had a chance at the line - up four [points] with Joe [Harris] at the line with two shots. I look at our free throws and that certainly stings. I thought our guys played hard enough and tightened it up defensively. They scored so many early and I thought they tightened it up. You know down the stretch, the ability to make free throws, the ability to make good decisions. They made some big plays, obviously the three to win it. And they're so fast down the floor that if you relax for a second they are going to get some action. It was a heck of a game. It was an intense game and an intense setting. Obviously good for both teams. I'll say this out of respect for Shaka [Smart]. It stings to lose, but when you lose to someone that you respect and that is a friend of yours, it is a little easier. They do things the right way. Our program does things the right way and I can stomach it. I think it'll be good for our program. We know we have some issues we need to improve, but hats off to a heck of a program and a friend who can coach the heck out of the game. We'll grow from it and we'll move on."
On the defense on game-winning shot:
"We tried to switch the defense. He [London] was pretty close to it. It was some action earlier that they got in the corner that hurt us. We got the guy we wanted at the line and hopefully you're going to go up by one and things will be a little different. It was a big shot. I think they hit two out of three big ones down the stretch. It was pretty well defended and it was an NBA three. So maybe that is all you can ask for. We may have been able to meet him a little sooner, but there was a lot of action going on and he stepped up and made it."
On the hype for the game:
"This was great for the state and college basketball in our own little world. I don't know if Kentucky cares too much about this game, or other programs. It was certainly a good atmosphere. You had to play at a high level. There were a lot of mistakes on our part if you look at the turnovers. It wasn't a perfect game on either side. I knew going in it would be good for us. We've got work to do - but we will grow from it. The excitement leading up to it was certainly there and I don't think it disappointed in terms of excitement and quality of the game in terms of the buildup."
On shots taken at the end of the game:
"They put so much pressure on you defensively that you try to get aggressive and get a hands-on call and that is why Joe [Harris] tried to drive. We got a couple of poor shots. Justin [Anderson] had one and I think Joe had one. They did a good job defensively. That's where you try to spread it and attack a little bit but they are hard to get by. Perhaps I could've called a timeout and run a set at that time, but I need to take a look at that. I wish we could've gotten better shots. But even with that being said just the ability to step to the free throw line or make a solid pass could've put them in a tougher situation."
On 3-point shooting:
"London [Perrantes] is a better shooter than he's showing. I don't know if he is excited, but he's hitting the backboard before he's hitting the rim. Certainly Joe can shoot it, London, and Evan [Nolte]. I knew this would be a concern. The quickness may have been a problem for Evan, but I like him as a threat. I don't think we're going to set the world on fire with our 3-point shooting or shoot that many, but we need to have a threat there and that can open up the inside."
On Darion Atkins and Mike Tobey's playing time:
"I thought Darion [Atkins] was so active and so quick and he could get stops. He gave us a great lift, whether it was blocking shots or what. Again, sometimes our defense wasn't great. They're going downhill and having a guy that is so quick off the floor that can bother shots was our last line of defense and he helped us a lot with that. And again, he got some offensive rebounds and things like that and kept things alive for us. Perhaps I could've played Mike [Tobey] but we needed stops. They will all have their chance that is for sure."
On the amount of fouls:
"We had so many malfunctions. There was a lot of starting and stopping. There was stuff on the floor at halftime. The officials have points of emphasis and they are doing their jobs. It is hard. Especially when there is contact. There were some calls I disagree with and some calls I agree with. I think they are doing the best they can in those situations. There are a lot of stoppages with the new emphasis on the rules."
Virginia Sophomore Center Mike Tobey
On offensive game plan:
"The way the referees were calling fouls, we wanted to get to the rim and at least get a foul. I think we made that a point and I think we did a pretty good job at it."
On when the game got away from the team:
"At the end, we need to be more sound. We had the game, but we didn't make a lot of sound plays and let them get back into it. That last shot was tough."
On learning from the loss:
"It's good to get a loss early in the season because we get to learn from it. Now we have that feeling in our stomach and we don't want that again. We need to bounce back and get ready for Davidson on Saturday."
On the home atmosphere at JPJ:
"The JPJ fans were great tonight. They really helped motivate us. Unfortunately, we didn't come out with the 'W,' but the crowd was great. "
Virginia Senior Forward Akil Mitchell
On if the early foul trouble affected his game:
"I think when you get two fouls early, you have to mentally adjust. You just want to get back on the court and get back into the flow of it."
On how frustrating the loss is:
"It's disappointing, but it's too early in the season to get down. We've got a ton of good teams left and a ton of basketball to be played. It's way too early to be deflated. We'll bounce back and I think we'll be okay.
On how to improve:
"We have got to understand how to lock in defensively down the stretch and how to take care of the ball better."
Virginia Junior Forward Darion Atkins
On how they matched up against VCU:
"All we had to do was go against their "havoc" concept. I feel like we handled the press really well. We just needed to take care of the ball towards the end and we didn't."
On the team's struggles from the free throw line:
"Coach Bennett has been emphasizing free throws every day at practice. Malcolm [Brogdon] is one of our best free throws shooters. I don't how he missed his one of two. But, even the best free throw shooters miss free throws. It came down to the last two possessions of the game where we lost it."
Virginia Freshman Guard London Perrantes
On facing VCU's pressure defense:
"I thought it was going to be worse. Practice got us ready for it. We played against eight managers during practice, doing things like that to get ready for it. But nothing is going to be like that again. There were some points where we handled it well, but it came down to making plays at the end and we didn't make them."
On intensity of the game:
"There was definitely a difference tonight. The crowd was intense. The players were different, a whole different team. I felt like we were ready for it, but we just had some mishaps. We have another game Saturday, so we'll just go into practice and get ready for that game."
Virginia Guard Malcolm Brogdon
On the game:
"We played hard. So did VCU. It came down to the end of the game, but we didn't take care of the ball or knock down free throws like we wanted and it came back to haunt us. But, we have to give credit to them, they played a hell of a game."
On facing VCU's pressure defense:
"We worked against the press all week, for a few weeks actually, at times we did well with it but at times we had turnovers, I had a few myself and that hurt us."
On facing a team like VCU early in the season:
"It's definitely going to help us. I think this loss is going to end up being a blessing. Even though we started the year ranked, we need to not get too high on ourselves, take it down a notch, and work harder in practice. We won't play another team that plays at a faster tempo, so we'll be ready for any kind of pace a team tries to play against us. "
On UVa's handling VCU's defense:
"It wears you down, but when we took care of the ball we wore them down. We made them play 30-35 seconds of defense in the half court. We wore them down, but it was our turnovers and our free throws that came back to get us."
Virginia Guard Joe Harris:
On the game:
"I missed two free-throws back-to-back that I should have knocked down and given us some momentum, but too many defensive lapses at the end of the game let them in it. There were bright spots, but definitely some things we can improve on. But we'll come back, watch some film, and start getting ready for Davidson. I know everyone in the locker room is ready to get back out on the court."
On VCU's defense:
"It's tough. That's their whole mantra - trying to play up-tempo offensively and up in your face defensively in the half-court and full-court. It's tough; it's definitely a different way to play. We don't see a lot of press defenses and fast break teams that run both.
On Virginia's preparation:
"I thought we prepared really well. For the most part, even though there were some turnovers, I thought we did a good job controlling tempo. We didn't give up a lot of transition points. There were a few breakdowns there, but I felt like we did a good job with the press."
VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart
On the game:
"I am really proud of our guys tonight. Virginia played a great game. They are a very tough team to score on and to rebound on as well. I think the crowd was great, both theirs and ours. It was a very, very good college basketball game for this early in the season."
On Treveon Graham's shot:
"He is really good. I think he is a guy that has done a great job of following the process. He keeps getting better and better. He is going to make a whole lot more of those shots. During that last play, the guys did a great job of executing. Treveon caught it with about three seconds left and those are the kind of shots that we want. We want out best scorer with the ball, making plays at the end."
On playing Virginia:
"Virginia is a team that gives a lot of help on drives. They really collapse to defend the paint. I thought they did a great job all night long giving our drivers a tough time and finishing. I think Treveon did a great job that specific drive and found a great spot in the corner. I think that Tony [Bennett] has a terrific program. He has really built the program up to a high level. They have a terrific coach and great players. I think that this is a team that will be very successful in the ACC."
"I don't think we were too tentative, I think we were missing open guys. On our drives we were getting too far down in the lane. Virginia has some big athletic guys that were forcing us to miss some shots. We will probably see some throwback opportunities on the drives, ones where we could have found some open guys. I think we got stagnant in the first half and stood around too much, but in the second half we had much better movement that created more of an opportunity to find open players."
On Virginia defense:
"This game is an example of why Virginia is so good on the defensive end. They take you out of what you are trying to do. I thought we did a good job of playing fast, but we did not have too many opportunities. We shot the ball poorly from the foul line, so there is no question that this win on the road, against a top 25 program, says a lot about these guys."
VCU Guard Treveon Graham
On game-winning basket:
"When I got the ball back, I knew there were only three seconds left. I take those kind of throwback shots every day in practice. I was confident enough to know if Rob would throw it back I would have made it. It was close towards the end of the game, so I was thinking that I needed to pick up my game. I was using that for motivation and I wanted to attack the basket and finish."
On thoughts on the season:
"This year we have a lot more focus on us, but we still want to attack and go at them, no matter who it is. Coaches and the leaders of the team help each other stay level headed, so these two early wins will still leave us level headed."