When VCU needed him most Wednesday against Arizona State, Ace Baldwin was unavailable.
With their best player out due to a broken right wrist, the Rams blew an 11-point lead in the final nine minutes and fell 63-59 to the Sun Devils in the Legends Classic at New York.
On Thursday night, in the consolation game of the tournament played at the home of the Brooklyn Nets, VCU (2-1) looks to rebound against Pitt (1-2) and figure out how to compensate for the loss of its floor leader.
The absence of Baldwin, who got hurt Saturday in a victory over Morgan State, was felt down the stretch on Wednesday night. After taking a 52-41 lead with a 3-pointer from David Shriver with 8:58 to play, VCU didn’t have a field goal the rest of the way.
The Rams missed their final nine shots from the floor and had three turnovers as the Sun Devils outscored them 22-7. VCU finished the game with 16 turnovers and just nine assists.
“Too many turnovers,” Rams coach Mike Rhoades said. “We have enough guys with experience. You can’t melt down.”
With Baldwin out for two to four weeks, VCU will have to count on Brandon Johns Jr., who averages a team-high 12.7 points; Jamir Watkins, who is scoring at a 11-points-per-game clip; and Jayden Nunn, who led the Rams on Wednesday with 13 points and five assists.
Pitt is smarting, too, after dropping a 91-60 decision to No. 20 Michigan on Wednesday in Brooklyn.
The Panthers hung with the Wolverines and still were within single digits early in the second half before Michigan dominated the final 16 minutes.
The Wolverines’ depth was apparent as their bench outscored the Panthers reserves 34-8. Jamarius Burton led Pitt with 14 points, while Blake Hinson had 13 points and six rebounds and Greg Elliott contributed 12 points.
John Hugley IV made his season debut after missing the first two games with a knee injury. Hugley, the team’s top scorer and rebounder last year, showed his rust, producing nine points and one rebound in 22 minutes.
It was the second straight blowout loss for the Panthers, who fell 81-56 to visiting West Virginia on Friday.
“When adversity hits, the last two games, we’ve dropped the rope,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said. “That’s where we have to grow up. There has to be more toughness, mental and physical.”
–Field Level Media