Recap: VCU loses a heart-breaker to Indiana

Despite forcing 22 turnovers, the #12 Virginia Commonwealth University Rams just couldn’t put the #4 Indiana University Hoosiers away Saturday night in Portland, Oregon. While they played great defense, the Rams watched a nine point lead disappear only to lose 63-61 in the final minute of the game.

Despite forcing 22 turnovers, the #12 Virginia Commonwealth University Rams just couldn’t put the #4 Indiana University Hoosiers away Saturday night in Portland, Oregon. While they played great defense, the Rams watched a nine point lead disappear only to lose 63-61 in the final minute of the game.

Recap

Indiana’s prolific offense shined early as Indiana bolted ahead 13-8 with 16:05 remaining in the first half. The Hoosiers handled VCU’s defense with ease by sending one ball handler dribbling through the pressure. Suddenly HAVOC happened. Briante Weber, Troy Daniels, and DJ Haley entered the game and the offensive juggernaut that is Indiana looked a little weaker.

Troy Daniels, Bradford Burgess, and Briante Weber combined to score ten straight points for the Rams, but more importantly for the first time all night it felt like VCU could compete with the Big Ten giant. Indiana fought back and the game reached its 7th tie in the first half with 5:18 remaining.

Again VCU exploded on a 9-0 run behind the scoring of Juvonte Reddic, Treveon Graham, and Rob Brandenberg. Indiana’s offense responded in a big way. In the final 1:15 of the first half, Christian Watford went on an 8-0 run by hitting back to back 3-pointers and a pair of free-throws.

If the first half was offense, then the second half was defense. In the final 20 minutes VCU forced 12 turnovers, drained four 3-pointers, and Darius Theus grabbed 4 steals, but VCU struggled down the stretch. With 12:28 remaining, Juvonte Reddic tipped in an offensive rebound and the Rams owned a second nine point lead. Then Indiana’s bench started making big contributions on defense. Remy Abell, Matt Roth, and Tom Pritchard locked in on defense and even scored a few key points that stopped VCU’s momentum and kept the Rams from creating a double digit lead.

The Rams only scored four points and made two shots in the final 12:28. Up 61-58, Bradford Burgess stepped to the line to shoot free-throws. An 80% free-throw shooter, Burgess missed them both. Off the rebound Victor Oladipo took the ball to the rim in transition, scored, and drew the foul. In the span of 13 seconds there was a five point swing and Juvonte Reddic fouled out.

With the game tied at 61, Troy Daniels missed a 3-pointer with time running out on the shot clock. 10 seconds later Will Sheehey hit a jump shot with 13 seconds remaining. VCU called a timeout and the Rams had one opportunity to either tie or win the game. Darius Theus took the ball up the court and tried multiple times to drive the lane off of a screen like he has done so many times in clutch situations. Unfortunately IU was running a “55 defense” in which every player switched on screens. Theus finally drove the lane and kicked the ball to Rob Brandenberg. Brandenberg took the open 3-pointer, but the shot was too short.

Indiana’s front-court

DJ Haley, Juvonte Reddic, and Bradford Burgess made plays, but they just couldn’t contain the future pros Cody Zeller and Christian Watford when it really mattered. Haley and Reddic did a good job containing Cody Zeller until the final 5 minutes when Zeller finished out the game with five key points. Zeller also dominated the boards finishing the night with 13 rebounds while Reddic and Haley only combined for six boards.

Burgess did a good job defending Christian Watford except for the end of the first half. At 6′-9″ Watford is a scary offensive threat, and he was just able to shoot over Burgess. He finished the night shooting 4-5 from 3-point range with 16 points.

Top Performer: Bradford Burgess

A lot of emphasis will be put on the two free-throws that VCU’s lone senior missed, but multiple players dropped the ball as VCU only shot 6-13 from the charity stripe. Bradford Burgess will always be remembered as one of the greatest players to put on the Black&Gold and Saturday was no different. Burgess was one of the Ram’s most capable scorers with 15 points while shooting 4-9 from 3-point range. More importantly, in a game where VCU failed to rebound, Burgess led VCU with 7 boards while being greatly outsized by Christian Watford (6′-9″) and Cody Zeller (7′-0″).

5 stats

  • The Rams only scored 4 points in the final 12:28.
  • Indiana shot an impressive 16-24 from the field and 5-9 from 3-point range in the first half but still trailed by one point at halftime.
  • The Rams were out-rebounded 36-23 by Indiana. In their last 4 games of the season VCU got out-rebounded by an average of 10 boards per game.
  • VCU shot 55.2% in the first half and 25% in the second half. Thats a full 30.2% difference.
  • VCU only scored 23 points off of their 22 turnovers. Transition offense has been one of VCU’s most effective methods of scoring all season.

Looking forward

At one point this season, the Black&Gold was 3-3 with a bad loss and no quality wins. The coaching staff did a fantastic job of improving the team and the Rams responded by winning 26 of their final 30 games. VCU won a school record record 29 games, won the CAA tournament, and upset #5 Wichita State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“Relative to other people’s expectations, not mine or the team’s, but what other people thought, I think we overachieved.”
Coach Shaka Smart

The Rams lost four seniors and a fifth player from last years team, and despite having the 9th youngest lineup in Division I basketball, they found a way to win. The loss of Bradford Burgess will hurt, but the Rams will likely return 83.8% of their minutes, 80.2% of their scoring, and 89.7% of their NCAA leading steals. A lot of focus will now turn to Coach Shaka Smart as he is one of the hottest young coaches in basketball.

Only time will tell if he returns, but he will undoubtedly have multiple suitors during the off-season.

“They should have a picture in their room, maybe I’ll give it to them, of the scoreboard or maybe one of the last second plays in this game to motivate them, to help them understand all offseason long, we want to get back to this place, but we want to advance.”
Coach Shaka Smart

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Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams loves music, basketball (follow @rvaramnews!), family, learning, and barbecue sauce.

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