On March 16th, 2011, VCU topped USC in Dayton before storming to the Final 4. Is a dominant victory in the same stadium what the Rams need this season?
Virginia Commonwealth University played their all-round best game of the season in an 80-66 rout of University of Dayton Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio.
After losing five of the last eight games in the regular season and a heartbreaking loss to Old Dominion in the CAA Tournament Finals in 2011, the Rams snuck into the NCAA Tournament and topped USC 59-46 in the University of Dayton Arena before storming to the Final Four. The Rams have underperformed their very high expectations much of this season. Is this road win in the exact same stadium what they need to make a run in the Atlantic 10?
VCU dominated Illinois State 96-58 and trounced Virginia Tech 82-52, but Wednesday was still the Rams’ most impressive game of the season, because it was a meaningful victory against a quality opponent in a difficult venue. The Rams were dominant on defense before the final five minutes and they found much needed answers on offense including a significant performance from senior Juvonte Reddic.
Despite allowing Dayton to shoot .524 from the field in the first half, VCU led 36-27 at halftime thanks to 12 forced turnovers and dominant rebounding. Offensively they went to work from the perimeter with Melvin Johnson and Jordan Burgess hitting 3-pointers while Briante Weber and Treveon Graham drove the lane. The balance was effective and the early 3-pointers didn’t allow Dayton to sag off of VCU’s guards.
The Flyers only turned over the ball six times in the second half, but Juvonte Reddic and the Rams caught fire on offense and scored 44 points on .536 shooting. Outside of three JeQuan Lewis 3-pointers, the Rams attacked the rim in the second half–an area where they excelled last season but have struggled this season.
They scored 22 of their 34 points in the paint in the second half and Briante Weber and Juvonte Reddic scored a combined 28 points on 9-of-13 shooting. VCU attempted zero free-throws in the first half but the attacking mentality paid off in the second half, and the Rams finished 11-of-13 (.846) from the charity stripe.
It was an extremely promising win for the Rams, who despite having the sixth best adjusted defensive efficiency in the nation, are looking for answers on offense. On Wednesday they found answers as Briante Weber finished with 18 points, Juvonte Reddic finished with 18 points, Treveon Graham finished with 14 points, and Melvin Johnson, JeQuan Lewis, and Jordan Burgess combined for 23 points and 7-of-10 3-point shooting.
Coach Smart refers to them as a “three-headed, 750 pound monsters.”: Juvonte Reddic, Terrance Shannon, and Mo Alie-Cox. Before the game, Shannon was ruled out because of a knee injury in practice on Tuesday, and in the game Alie-Cox was limited because of foul trouble. Juvonte Reddic answered the call and had one of his best games of the season.
After only scoring two points in the first half, Reddic scored VCU’s first nine points in the second half while showing off his versatility: two free-throws, he called for the ball and scored at the rim, he hit back-to-back mid-range jumpers, and capped it off with another free-throw.
His stat line (18 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals) is impressive, but it misses the bigger point: Juvonte Reddic decided to be good, and he imposed his will on a quality opponent (sorry, ODU).
Top performer: Briante Weber
18 points (7-9 2PFG, 0-3 3PFG), 2 REB, 5 AST, 1 PF, 3 STL
The official stat keeper only counted six VCU steals, but the Rams’ intense pressure forced 18 turnovers largely thanks to Briante Weber. He was an absolute menace, and his recovery speed enabled the Rams to press aggressively but not sacrifice easy points to Dayton’s talented guards.
More importantly, he was poised on offense and he struck the perfect balance between finding his own shot and finding shots for his teammates. He hit several “trick-shots” including one at the buzzer to end the first half. Weber’s points usually come in transition, but he was extremely effective slicing through defenders in the half-court. Weber has to be careful not to force it, but when he scores like he did on Wednesday night, the Rams are a much better team.
- Coach Smart is a perfect 6-0 against teams from Ohio.
- Wednesday was just VCU’s 2nd win over a top-100 KenPom team. They are 2-4 so far this season against such teams.
- Six is the fewest steals by the Rams since 3/10/2013 but 18 is more forced turnovers than Saturday’s game against Duquesne (17).
- VCU’s previous five opponents shot 13-of-75 (.173) from 3-point range. Dayton went 7-of-14.
- Dayton’s previous three opponents attempted 91 free-throws. VCU attempted zero in the first half.
- Dayton’s four A-10 opponents are 86-of-104 (.827) from the charity stripe.
VCU looks to continue playing well against another squad with talented guards on Saturday when they visit La Salle. The Explorers topped VCU 69-61 last season but they have since lost Ramon Galloway who scored 31 points on the Rams. The game will be on ESPN or ESPN 2 at noon.
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