Recap: GW exploits VCU’s weaknesses and puts A-10 on notice

GW exploited VCU’s weakness Tuesday night while putting the entire Atlantic 10 on notice.

Virginia Commonwealth University had chances but George Washington made too many plays en route to a 76-66 win over the Rams in Washington D.C. on Tuesday night.


George Washington exposed VCU’s weaknesses while winning a game that will have conference implications come March. The Rams forced 21 turnovers, hit nine 3-pointers, and Rob Brandenberg had one of his best games of the season, but they couldn’t score in the half-court, they forfeited the ball too frequently, and they couldn’t stop the Colonials on possessions that didn’t end in turnovers.

VCU started the game 6-of-8 from 3-point range and forced plenty of early turnovers, but they could not stop Kevin Larsen who, in the first half, tied his career-high of 17 points. The game remained close until VCU’s 3-point shooting dried up, and the Colonials finished the half on an 8-0 run to lead 36-29.

The Rams would get within four in the second half, but the Colonials made plays from the first possession until the final buzzer. They exploited the press with several baseball passes that ended in scores or fouls, and they finished defensive possessions with rebounds despite playing tons of 1-3-1 zone defense.

HAVOC! is a risky system. The Rams took risks that allowed them to attempt 20 more shots than the Colonials but only hit .368 from the field. Those risks allowed GW to score almost on command.

The Colonials went 13-17 last season while starting four freshmen. This season those freshmen have grown up and VCU found out the hard way. Sophomores Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino played brilliant games, and GW’s defense made VCU’s half-court offense look totally lost.

After winning five games in a row against mediocre opponents, Tuesday night showed that the Rams still have plenty to figure out if they want to finish towards the top in the loaded Atlantic 10. George Washington on the other hand looks ready to win plenty of games in league play despite a 1-1 start.

Rob Brandenberg

Rob Brandenberg has had an interesting career at VCU. After a promising freshman season, he went through a serious shooting slump during his sophomore campaign. He’s lacked consistency but has had explosive games including an important 5-of-5 performance from 3-point range against Memphis last season.

Over the last four games, he has turned consistency into a strength posting four offensive ratings over 100 including a season high 138 on Tuesday. During that stretch he’s averaging 12.25 PPG while going 10-of-21 (.476) from 3-point range. He’s also dished out seven assists while only committing two turnovers and three fouls. Tuesday, he was the best player in Black & Gold as he finished with 18 points (4-6 2FG, 3-6 3FG), 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals 1 turnover, and 1 foul.

While Rob Brandenberg leaves something to be desired with consistency on shooting, it’s tough to question his effort or his ability to avoid mistakes. He has just four turnovers in the last nine games and his season turnover percentage of 11.2% is significantly better than anyone else on the team. He has just three fouls in the last six games and he only fouls 1.9 times per 40 minutes. Those are ridiculous stats considering how often he handles the ball and how frequently he plays at the top of the press.

VCU fans have watched Rob Brandenberg miss his fair share of jump shots and have seen him drive the lane only to miss at the rim numerous times, but he has always impacted the game in countless ways. Recently, his shots have been falling and VCU has been better for it.

Top performer: Patricio Garino

25 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 1 turnover

It isn’t often that a guy scores 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the first half and fails to be the top performer. Sorry, Kevin Larsen. Patricio Garino played a brilliant game against VCU on both ends of the court, especially in the second half. His wingspan and motor made him a nightmare at the top of the 1-3-1 zone, and he made play after play on offense. He battled injuries earlier in the season, but Tuesday he looked like an all-conference player.

5 stats

  • In wins Juvonte Reddic is 70-of-113 (eFG%: .633) from the field. In losses he is 9-of-29 (eFG%: .310).
  • The Rams are averaging 25.5 fouls per game in losses and 17.5 fouls per game in wins.
  • GW finished 25-38 (.658) from 2-point range.
  • VCU went 7-17 (.412) from the charity stripe. In their first three losses they actually shot 62-83 (.747) while exceeding their season average of .668 in all three games.
  • In VCU’s four losses, they have been outscored by 31 points in the first half (their sole lead was 30-29 against Georgetown) and only 3 points in the second half.

Looking forward

VCU returns home to regroup on Saturday against Duquesne at 4:00 PM for homecoming.

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Aaron Williams

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

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