Trojans Top Panthers in Freedom Classic
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Jan 21, 2013, 12:53
The Virginia State University men’s basketball team poses with the Freedom Classic trophy on Sunday at the Richmond Coliseum (contributed photo).
RICHMOND – This win was a long time coming.
The Virginia State University men’s basketball team snapped a 23-game losing streak against Virginia Union with a 70-65 victory in the Freedom Classic on Sunday at the Richmond Coliseum.
The breakthrough win came 11 years to the day after the Trojans last toppled their CIAA Northern Division rivals in the 2002 Freedom Classic, their only other triumph in the 17-year history of the annual event.
“This was a very emotional game,” said second-year VSU coach Darryl Jacobs. “This is very special not only to the program, but to the university as a whole. There are a lot of happy alumni out there that had only won the Freedom Classic one time since its inception.”
Now they have won two, and they can thank point guard Mike Bynum.
The 5-foot-10 senior left his fingerprints all over the signature win, racking up a game-high 18 points, five assists and three steals in 37 minutes of action. “That’s a great ball game from a senior leader,” Jacobs said. “That’s what we needed.”
Bynum poured in 12 points in the second half, which began with the rival schools deadlocked at 36-36. The four-year starter said he allowed the game to come to him down the stretch. The end result, he said, was meaningful.
“It’s a good win,” Bynum said. “We hadn’t beaten them in 11 years. To be the one to beat them, man that feels good.”
Both teams knocked down six 3-pointers and scored 22 field goals, but VSU constructed the decisive margin from the foul line. The Trojans converted 20 of 31 free throws, besting the Panthers’ 15-of-24 showing from the charity stripe.
That discrepancy was indicative of a discrepancy in aggressiveness, according to VUU coach Luqman Jaaber.
“I thought overall they just played harder than us,” Jaaber said. “They seemed a little bit hungrier than we did on the court, and it showed. They had 13 offensive rebounds. That’s a lot in a low-possession game.”
Wrought with parity, the first half featured seven ties and five lead changes. The Panthers made the stronger start and took a 14-7 lead when Michael Wynn drained a 3-pointer with 15:20 left in the first half.
VSU responded with a 16-5 run and the two teams traded baskets for the remainder of the frame. The Panthers made 13 of 24 shots from the field in the opening stanza while VSU kept pace by connecting on all four of its shots from beyond the arc.
“If those 3-pointers aren’t on the board for us, we could very easily be down 12 points,” Jacobs said.
The Panthers were somewhat stymied by the Trojans’ zone defense in the second half, and Jaaber said his team deviated from the game plan by attempting 18 3-pointers.
“I’m not pleased with that number,” Jaaber said. “I think without the 18 3s, it’s a different type of ball game because we’re going to have a different mentality. I thought because they went zone, our guys settled.”
As a result, VSU broke to a 56-46 lead with about 10 minutes remaining in the game. The Trojans took a 65-56 advantage seven minutes later when Bynum toed the baseline, corralled a pass from Kenny Mitchell and finished with a reverse layup.
Calvin Brown, who paced the Panthers with 13 points, gathered a loose ball and knocked down a contested trey that reduced the deficit to 67-63 with less than a minute left.
VUU sophomore Marcel Crump came up empty-handed from the foul line seconds later, however, and James Vann sealed the long-awaited victory for VSU with a left-handed dunk in the waning seconds.
Mitchell laid claim to the game’s only double-double, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Vann came off the VSU bench to score 12, a tally equaled by VUU senior Wesley Simmons.
“Without James Vann, this is no victory,” Jacobs said. “Anytime you come off the bench to score 12 points you did a fantastic job.”
With the win, the Trojans improved to 1-0 in divisional play, 3-4 in conference outings and 8-9 overall.
“We were able to jump out to a quick start in the Northern Division by winning this game,” Jacobs said. “We just have to keep riding this momentum into our next game, which is Wednesday against Chowan.”
VIRGINIA UNION (3-11, 1-6): Wilson 9, Simmons 12, Brown 13, Wynn 8, Briggs 6, Smith 0, Harper-Douglas 0, Pankey 7, Crump 5, Alers 0, Holmes 0, Holt 5, Carter 0. Totals: 22 15-24 65. 3-pointers: Brown 3, Wynn 2, Pankey.
VIRGINIA STATE (8-9, 3-4): Williams 0, Bynum 18, Harris 9, Mitchell 14, Porter 5, White 0, Holleman 5, Jackson 5, Vann 12, Wells 2. Totals: 22 20-31 70. 3-pointers: Bynum 2, Vann 2, Mitchell, Harris.