The Hawks appeared in command when two free throws by C.J. Aiken expanded their lead to 79-75 with 28 seconds left in regulation. Then VCU hit a three, St. Joseph's Ronald Roberts made one of two free throws and the Rams' Darius Theus, hit a layup with eight seconds left that sent the game into overtime.
VCU (15-3, 3-0) assumed control by scoring the first six points in overtime.
Aiken had 15 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots. The Hawks were led in scoring by Langston Galloway's 22 points, while Carl Jones added 21.
And now the Hawks have to prepare for their last nonconference game of the season, against Penn (3-13).
Despite Penn's record, Martelli says his team won't overlook the Quakers. Last year, Penn built a 23-point lead and held on for an 84-80 win over the Hawks. And forget about the records, playing in the Palestra is a big deal to the Hawks.
"It's a special building and will be a unique challenge for us," Martelli said.
The Quakers snapped an eight-game losing streak with Thursday's 54-53 win at NJIT as 6-foot-11 freshman Darien Nelson-Henry had his first double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Penn forward Fran Dougherty (15.7 ppg., 8.8 rpg.) remains out with mononucleosis.
Quakers coach Jerome Allen said he understands the difficult task his team has in facing the Hawks.
"They played VCU to the wire and should have won the game, and they will come in here hungrier and more focused to get back on the winning track," he said. "This is a Big Five game, and all Big Five games are great, especially in the Palestra where the atmosphere is great."
Contact Marc Narducci at email@example.com or @sjnard on Twitter.