Just over a week ago, Virginia Commonwealth needed a second-half rally to beat undermanned Richmond.
No. 24 VCU seeks its third victory of the season over the Spiders on Friday night in an Atlantic 10 tournament quarterfinal in Brooklyn.The second-seeded Rams (24-7) are back in the rankings for the first time since the Nov. 18 poll, when they were No. 10 after starting 3-0. They ended their regular season with four straight victories, including an 86-67 home win over St. Bonaventure on Saturday.Rob Brandenberg tied a season high with 18 points while Juvonte Reddic had 13 points and 14 rebounds for his 11th double-double. With an NCAA at-large bid all but guaranteed, the duo will comprise the only senior class in school history with four straight tournament appearances."Our seed's going to be whatever it is," coach Shaka Smart said before his team had learned its seed for the conference tournament.The Rams were also seeded second last year before losing 62-56 in the final against Saint Louis, which won the league's regular-season title again."I'm glad that we won and have a bye," Smart said. "We just wanted to win for Juvonte and Rob."VCU scored a season-high 31 points off 24 St. Bonaventure turnovers, with three players recording four or more steals. The Rams are limiting opponents to 59.8 points per game and forcing an average of 17.5 turnovers during their four-game win streak.Treveon Graham also scored 18 and was 3 of 4 from 3-point range, two days after hitting all three of his long-distance attempts in a 56-50 win at Richmond, VCU's 10th in the last 12 meetings.Graham was one of four Rams to hit 3-pointers in an 18-3 run that rallied them from a 37-26 deficit with 13:30 to play to a 44-40 lead, and he added two key free throws with 6 seconds left.Seventh-seeded Richmond (19-13) conversely ended its regular season with four straight losses prior to a 76-64 first-round victory over Duquesne on Thursday. The Spiders, who had been one-and-done in the tournament in each of the previous two seasons, averaged 50.3 points on 32.4 percent shooting during their slide, including 31.6 percent against VCU.Kendall Anthony scored 23 against the Dukes and hit all 11 of his free-throw attempts. He was 6 of 18 against VCU and missed a potential tying layup with 10 seconds left.For the Spiders, who have been using eight players since Cedrick Lindsay (18.3 ppg) injured both knees and big man Derrick Williams left the squad for personal reasons, anything less than a conference tournament title will likely see them miss out on NCAA play for a third straight year."I think it was a rough end to the season," coach Chris Mooney said. "We didn't have practices where the guys packed it in or there was no energy. We feel like we have basketball left in us. We have some good guys. When they accept that responsibility and are aggressive that puts us in good position."VCU took an 81-70 home win in the season's first meeting on Feb. 1, though Anthony matched his career high with 31 points and the Rams forced a season-low nine turnovers.Graham is averaging 16.8 points over his last four matchups with Richmond.