Senior guard Jalen Crutcher (#10 with ball, pictured Feb. 9 against VCU) scored 21 points, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the same number of team turnovers as third time was not the charm for the Flyers. Photo courtesy of Griffin Quinn, Flyer News.
For the third time this season, the Flyers fell to VCU, this time a 73-68 loss in the A10 quarterfinals Friday afternoon in Richmond, Va. The loss can be attributed to many of the problems they have experienced for parts (or much) of the season, including turnovers (21) and cold shooting (38.5 on field goals and three-pointers).
Much like their first match-up of the season on Jan. 23, the Flyers struggled to get anything going offensively early and turned the ball over five times in the first four minutes, as the Rams jumped out to an 11-1 lead at the under-16 media timeout with 15:57 remaining in the first half.
Rams’ sophomore guard Nah’Shon Hyland poured in 10 early points, and the Rams’ lead expanded to 21-8 with 11:32 remaining in the half. Through just eight-and-a-half minutes, the Rams outshot the Flyers 64 to 30 percent from the field, and led the turnover battle 7 to 2.
Utilizing a high-pressing defense which forces turnovers and leads to easy baskets, the Rams were able to hold a double-digit lead at the under-8 media timeout, though the Flyers trimmed the early 13-point deficit down to 23-13 with 7:49 left in the half.
Hyland continued to pour in shot-after-shot, making 7 of his first 9 field goals, as the Rams took a 31-20 lead into the under-4 media timeout with 3:28 until halftime.
Interior play by Flyers redshirt senior center Jordy Tshimanga helped the Flyers trim the deficit as low as seven a couple of times, but the Rams responded, and with a buzzer-beating jumper by Hyland as he fell out of bounds went in, the Rams went into halftime up 37-26.
The Flyers shot just 30 percent from three and 40 percent from the field, and turned the ball over 11 times. Though they were able to dominate the boards (17-10 rebounds), 22 points from Hyland cancelled out anything the Flyers did well in the first half.
The second half started slowly for both teams, and the Rams’ lead was trimmed down to 40-30 with 15:43 remaining in the second half.
However, the Rams quickly regained their first half form, and another Flyers turnover led to a lob from Hyland – who was limping after the previous Rams possession – to sophomore forward Hason Ward for a ferocious slam in transition. The dunk gave VCU a 49-33 lead, forcing a Dayton timeout with 11:57 left in the game.
Things continued to get worse for the Flyers, who had 19 turnovers and were shooting 33.3 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from three down 55-37 with 7:40 remaining.
Senior guard Rodney Chatman, who missed 11 games earlier in the season after surgery to a torn ligament in his left hand, was injured with 7:27 left in the game and went back to the locker room.
The Flyers were finally able to get the three ball going, with shots from redshirt senior guard Ibi Watson, senior guard Jalen Crutcher and freshman forward Mustapha Amzil to trim the Rams’ lead to 10. With the Flyers on an 8-2 run and making five of their last six shots, the Rams called timeout leading 62-52 with 4:26 left in the game.
Out of the timeout, the Flyers had a big sequence to put themselves back into the game. First, Watson got the steal on one end and made a step-back three on the other. Then, a tipped pass went out of bounds off the Rams, and Crtucher was fouled, splitting the free throws to trim the Flyers’ deficit to 62-56 with 3:49 left.
Down the final stretch, the Flyers played better offensively than the earlier parts of the game, but couldn’t effectively shut down VCU, getting the score as close as five, but never getting close enough to really threaten. The Rams finished the game off, and the Flyers fell 73-68, falling to 14-9 on the season, the loss more than likely keeping them out of a chance at the NCAA Tournament.
Crutcher led the Flyers with 21 points, and only Tshimanga and Watson joined him in double digits with 10 points each. VCU’s Hyland finished with 30 points and 10 rebounds, even while battling nagging injuries that seemed to pop back up throughout Friday’s game.
Some projections see the Flyers having a chance to make the National Invitational Tournament, which has been reduced to 16 teams this year.