RICHMOND, Va. – Some players are just born with a knack for delivering in clutch moments. Junior Darius Theus of the VCU men's basketball team is showing he was gifted with that knack.
Theus' drove to the lane, spun and dropped in a game-winning layup with less than 10 seconds left in overtime to give the Rams a dramatic 69-68 win over in-state rival William & Mary on Thursday evening in front of a national television audience. It's the second time this year that the junior delivered a game-winning overtime layup (see Akron – Dec.29).
"They had been switching on ball screens all night and we were able to get Darius in a mismatch with one of the William & Mary forwards," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "He did a nice job getting to the hoop and more importantly finishing."
The dramatic finish overshadow a career night from sophomore Juvonte Reddic (pictured, left), who finished with a career-high 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting, six rebounds and a career-high six steals. Theus added 12 points, five rebounds and three assists, while freshman Treveon Graham was the third Ram in double-figures with 10 points and six rebounds.
Watching the win was the 12th consecutive sellout crowd at the Verizon Wireless Arena, extending the VCU's school and conference record in that category.
"It's really an unbelievable experience being able to play in front of a sellout crowd every night," Theus said. "We know we're incredibly blessed to have the support that we do here at home."
The game started as the Juvonte Reddic show with the Winston-Salem, N.C. native scoring 15 of VCU's first 18 points, leading the Rams to a quick 10-point advantage, 18-8.
Marcus Thornton and Quinn McDowell would keep the Tribe close, combining for 17 first-half points and bringing William & Mary within three, but VCU closed the stanza on an 11-6 run to take a 34-26 cushion into the break.
Offense became a premium in the second half with both teams struggling from the field and the majority of action coming at the charity stripe. The teams combined for 35 second-half free-throws, but it was Brandon Britt's three-pointer with 3:45 to play that gave William & Mary their first lead of the game at 53-52.
Theus and McDowell would trade baskets before Britt would connect on a three-point play to give the Tribe a 58-56 lead with 1:20 to play. Theus struck again with a three-pointer from the top of the arc to regain the lead in VCU's favor, 59-58.
McDowell connected on a pair of free-throws with 51 seconds left before Theus evened the score at 60-60 with a free-throw of his own to set up William & Mary with the final possession of regulation.
Thornton drove the lane, but sophomore Rob Brandenberg delivered a huge block and gave VCU a chance to win, but a last ditch three-point attempt was off the mark and the game headed to an extra period.
William & Mary would grab a three-point lead, but a lay-up by Reddic and a charge drawn by freshman Briante Weber allowed the Rams to quickly turn it around and grab a 67-66 lead with just over a minute left. Tim Rusthoven slipped behind the defense for a basket to give the Tribe the lead with just under a minute and set up Theus' heroics in the final 10 seconds.
"I'm really proud of Darius, he's really become the leader of this team. That's certainly what you look for in your point guard," Smart said.
VCU tallied 11 steals on the night, marking the 11th time this year that the Rams reached double-digits in the steals column. The Black & Gold currently rank fifth in the country with 9.7 thefts per game.
The Rams will now have a quick turnaround with a showdown with in-state and hated rival Old Dominion less than 48 hours away on Saturday. Comcast SportsNet will be televising the highly-anticipated matchup which is set to tip-off at 8:07 at the Siegel Center.