Between its 2011 Final Four appearance, its celebrated young coach and its impressive 13-game win streak, VCU overshadowed Richmond a bit entering their city rivalry game on Thursday night.
Thanks to the heroics of Darien Brothers, however, the Spiders stole back some of the spotlight.
With Richmond trailing VCU by three and only a few ticks left on the clock, guard Cedrick Lindsay found no lane to the rim via a top of the key ball screen, so he pulled the ball out and reset. It was then that Brothers took a right-wing dribble handoff from Lindsay, pulled up and fired from 25 feet, sinking that shot with 1.5 seconds to go in regulation to force overtime and propel the Spiders to a come-from-behind 86-74 win.
Richmond's victory was especially surprising considering VCU appeared to have the game in hand leading by seven with 36 seconds remaining in regulation. The 19th-ranked Rams collapsed in uncharacteristic fashion, missing free throws, committing ill-advised fouls and ultimately leaving the door open a crack for the Spiders.
Troy Daniels and Treveon Graham each split a pair of free throws in the final 30 seconds of regulation. Daniels also fouled Kendall Anthony on a 3-point attempt, enabling him to sink all three free throws. Then finally, Shaka Smart elected not to send Richmond to the foul line on its final possession even though VCU led by three, a decision he attributed to his team's poor free throw shooting and the fact there were still 12 seconds left.
"Obviously, in retrospect, we should have fouled," Smart told reporters after Brothers burnt him with the game-tying 3-pointer.
The comeback moves Richmond (13-7, 3-2) within a game of first place in the Atlantic 10 and further tightens the race for the league title. With both Butler (16-3, 3-1) and VCU (16-4, 4-1) suffering their first league losses on consecutive days, no unbeaten teams remain in Atlantic 10 play and the top seven teams are separated by just one game in the standings.
The biggest problem for VCU was its ball-hawking pressure defense only forced a mere 11 turnovers, barely half its season average. Three of 19 shooting from behind the arc kept the Rams from making enough buckets to set up their trademark press, and when VCU was able to go full court, well-schooled Richmond did a better job breaking it than most teams have.
Thus for at least one night, Richmond has bragging rights. In a series in which the Spiders had lost seven of eight games entering Thursday night, that was cause for celebration.