click to enlarge Virginia Commonwealth University Rams' senior point guard Johnny Williams is coming off an 11-point, 6-assist game against Dayton.

Virginia Commonwealth University Rams' senior point guard Johnny Williams is coming off an 11-point, 6-assist game against Dayton.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Preview: VCU Rams vs. Richmond Spiders, Wednesday, Jan. 17

Basketball rivalry to be aired on Facebook Live.

Posted By on Mon, Jan 15, 2018 at 1:00 PM

The intensity of the crosstown basketball rivalry between the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University isn't necessarily affected all that much by their won-loss records.

As key moments of a hard fought Spiders vs. Rams game might be rehashed for years by local basketball buffs, perhaps over adult beverages, the immediate impact of their games' results on the Atlantic 10 standings can be overshadowed.

Richmond is a private school, enrollment 4,181, nestled into the tony West End of Virginia's capital city. VCU is a public school, enrollment 31,242, that sprawls from the Fan District to the heart of downtown. In the series that began in 1976, VCU leads all-time, 51-28.

On Wed., Jan. 17, the rivals will clash before a capacity crowd at VCU's Siegel Center; tip-off is at 7 p.m. Note: It will be televised exclusively by Facebook.

VCU (11-7, 3-2 A-10) has won the last six times it has faced Richmond (4-13, 2-3 A-10). At a glance, on paper it looks like VCU should run the streak to seven. Richmond's five starters are young and except for one man they aren't all that tall. The exception is Grant Golden (6-foot-10). He's become the Spiders' top scorer and for Richmond to win the freshman probably needs to have a career game.

Unfortunately, for Richmond, VCU has the deeper bench and can guard Golden with several players. The Spiders' starting guards are small and fast. They could present a problem for the Rams' ball handlers, as turnovers have been VCU's most glaring weakness.

As far as a plan for defense goes, the Spiders will try to prevent the Rams' star senior forward, Justin Tillman (6-foot-8), from racking up yet another double-double. That won't be easy. However, putting too much emphasis on that mission could open the floor up for other talented Rams. In particular, a pair of sophomore swingmen, Issac Vann (6-foot-6) and De'Riante Jenkins (6-foot-5), can both hit the 3-pointer and drive to the basket quite effectively.

But the outcome of this game may turn on whether Richmond can force a bad game out of VCU's senior point guard Johnny Williams (6-foot-1). If Williams gets his way dishing and driving into the lane, without getting caught in the air too many times with nowhere to go, it could be a long night for the Spiders.

Additional notes: The Spiders' freshman point guard Jacob Gilyard has been one of the top steals leaders in college basketball this season, currently at 13th. Also, the Spiders lost by six at home to Dayton, a team which just beat VCU by 27 in Ohio.

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