|(Shalyn Moore/HBCU Gameday photo)|
By Shalyn Moore
Virginia State defeated the Virginia Union 74-59 on Sunday night, clinching the 2017 Freedom Classic, extending its win streak to seven games and handing VUU its first conference loss of the season in the Richmond Coliseum.
The win moves VSU to a 13-3 overall record, 5-1 in the CIAA. VUU dropped to 12-5 overall, 4-1 in the CIAA.
The classic is a big deal to the two I-95 rivals. It provides bragging rights for a year, but more importantly it was a showdown between the top two seeded teams of the CIAA. A battle in which the Trojans stepped up to the occasion and were able to come out on top.
Sunday’s win was also very important to VSU coach Lonnie Blow Jr. after receiving news of his dear friend and Virginia Wesleyan teammate Barry Whithead’s death early Sunday morning.
“I’m coaching tonight with a heavy heart,” expressed Blow. “This win is for him also.”
“VSU is a great team,” VUU coach Jay Butler said. “We dug ourselves into a hole too deep.”
The Trojans went on a 20-1 run in the first half to chip away at a six point Panthers lead, tie the game on a crowd pleasing dunk by Richard Granberry, and never looked back. They dominated in the paint, moved the ball well, showed up defensively, and were able to capitalize off of second chance points to secure the victory.
Kevin Williams got busy for the Trojans recording 20 points, and junior Trey Brown followed up having a big night coming off the bench recording a season high of 16 points.
“I just let it come to me and I didn’t try to force anything,” Brown said.
Coming into the game VSU knew they had to contain Ray Anderson defensively and did a pretty decent job holding him to 14 points, but James Paige and Marcus Hoosier knocked down a few crucial shots to keep VUU in striking distance.
The Panthers had their share of last minute heroics to secure crucial wins in the past weeks and seemed to find some life after a quick layup by Ray Anderson at the 15:12 mark cut the VSU lead to five points, but the Trojans answered right back with a 9-0 run.
Williams and Granberry took the Panthers to town a few times with a collection of dunks to give the crowd the show they paid for. In the second half Granberry slammed one down, but did not get up and had to come out of the game with 9:23 left to play.
He returned for the Trojans, but would not score for the remainder of the contest. In speaking with Granberry after the game we learned that along with his double-double 11 points and 11 rebounds, he also secured two double Charlie horses and cramps in both legs.