Upperclassmen Treveon Graham scored a career-high 34 points, Juvonte Reddic 27, and Rob Brandenberg made three very important plays in an instant-classic 2OT victory.
Virginia Commonwealth led by 11 points in the first half and La Salle led by 10 points in the second half, but the battle required double overtime as the Rams topped the Explorers 97-89 in Philadelphia Saturday afternoon.
Using suffocating defense and a barrage of 3-pointers, VCU stormed out to a 29-18 lead while limiting La Salle’s leading scorers Tyrone Garland and Tyreke Duren to zero points and and zero fields goals until the 3:58 mark. La Salle’s guards responded with a brilliant second half building a 69-59 lead while scoring on command and forcing careless VCU turnovers.
Garland would finish with 30 points. Duren finished with 15 points, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one that allowed VCU to overcome a late deficit and force overtime. The overtime would not have been possible without brilliant defense from 6-foot-2 senior Rob Brandenberg on 6-foot-11 Steve Zack on La Salle’s final possession. Punch. Counterpunch.
45 minutes wasn’t enough for the two incredibly well-coached and evenly matched teams. Trailing 80-79, Treveon Graham went to the free-throw line, hit the first, and missed the second. La Salle could barely get a shot off and the game remained deadlocked at 80-80. Punch. Counterpunch.
In minute 48 of the game, HAVOC! had finally taken its toll, and Rob Brandenberg hit back-to-back 3-pointers to finally put VCU out of reach.
The Rams were far from perfect but upperclassmen Treveon Graham (34 points, 12 rebounds), Juvonte Reddic (27 points, 15 rebounds), and Rob Brandenberg showed incredible leadership and heart in a game where that last ounce of hustle was ultimately the deciding factor.
A big week
The battle for Brooklyn byes is going to be a race of attrition. Only four teams can get double byes and the race for those four spots will be brutal. Six teams entered Saturday just one loss behind 5-0 St. Louis.
Going 2-0 on the road against La Salle and Dayton is huge but what the Rams accomplished this week is bigger than conference standings. This is no longer the VCU team that went 1-2 in Puerto Rico. This is no longer the team that lost to Northern Iowa and struggled past Eastern Kentucky. The Rams have won eight of their last nine games and finally look like a team than can compete in the Atlantic 10.
The Rams will lose more games – maybe many more, but for the first time all season, the Rams consistently look capable of beating 97% of teams in the country. Inconsistent Juvonte Reddic averaged 22.5 PPG and 11 RPG this, Treveon Graham went full on beast mode, Briante Weber is turning into a solid point guard, and the bench is finding countless ways to contribute. Oh, and all of this happened without injured Terrance Shannon whose energy on the court will add another dimension when he returns.
One game won’t make or break this season for the Rams, but today VCU turned a good day into a good week. Now, the Rams need to continue to improve and stay focused so they can turn a good week into a good month.
Top performer: Treveon Graham
34 points (11-21 2PFG, 2-6 3PFG), 12 rebounds, 2 assists
Treveon Graham had an impressive 12 points at halftime. He was just getting started.
The junior scoring sensation played 44 of the grittiest minutes ever seen in a VCU uniform, and he willed VCU points at crucial moments. On countless plays, VCU isolated Graham against 6-foot-11 Steve Zack, and almost every play ended with a bucket, a foul, or a Juvonte Reddic rebound.
Graham scored 34 points which is the most for a Ram since Eric Maynor scored 35 points on East Carolina on 11/25/2008. More importantly, Graham has shown his value as a leader and a clutch performer after willing VCU past Virginia in Charlottesville and La Salle in Philadelphia. He’s a joy to watch and VCU is lucky to have him for another season.
- After losing to a team, Coach Smart is now 21-4 in rematch games. Three of those losses were prior to the Final 4.
- Coach Smart lost his first three OT games. He’s 7-1 since and is 2-0 in 2OT games.
- Since the start of 2013, three plays have scored 30+ points on VCU. La Salle’s Ramon Galloway, Temple’s Khalif Wyatt, and La Salle’s Tyrone Garland.
- Saturday was the first time since 1/16/2010 that only one Ram recorded a steal. Briante Weber finished with 5 steals.
- With 76 steals this season, Briante Weber now owns the #1, #3, and #5 spots on VCU’s single-season steals list.
After winning two challenging road games, the Rams return to the comfortable confines of the Stuart C. Siegel Center to host Fordham, Richmond, and Rhode Island. Fordham and freshman-phenom Jon Severe visit VCU on Wednesday at 7:00PM.
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