Rams down Georgia State, move to 14-5

Forget for a moment the 19-game home winning streak. Forget for a moment the looming matchup this Saturday with conference rival Old Dominion. Sometimes revenge is enough.

Forget for a moment the 19-game home winning streak. Forget for a moment the looming matchup this Saturday with conference rival Old Dominion. Sometimes revenge is enough.

On Wednesday night at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams exacted revenge on Georgia State, their only conference loss to date this season, 71-54. In a tough, bruising affair the Rams got production from some of the less-heralded of their personnel to improve to 6-1 in the conference, 14-5 overall as they move into a huge matchup with the Old Dominion Monarchs this weekend. Georgia State, meanwhile, fell to 8-9 on the season and 3-4 in the conference.

The Rams improved their winning streak at home to 20 games largely because of their defense, which forced 24 turnovers and held the Panthers to 36% shooting. In the teams’ previous matchup on Georgia State’s turf, the home team outmuscled VCU in the post to the tune of a plus-18 margin in the rebound column. While the Rams were still out rebounded by six in this contest, their ability to force turnovers and keep the Panthers from initiating a consistent offensive set was more than enough to offset that statistic. “”Our guys were really excited and energized to play this game because of what happened down there. That energy is what carried us through to the win tonight,” VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart said. “We didn’t particularly shoot the ball well tonight, but I thought we had a tremendous focus on the defensive end, which is what made the difference.”

The first half was an ugly one for the most part, with turnovers and fouls commanding most of the attention. The usual scoring suspects for VCU (see Joey Rodriguez, Bradford Burgess, Jamie Skeen) were mostly missing in action. However, freshman Rob Brandenberg injected life into the Rams offense with an array of three-pointers, drives to the hoop and the ability to capitalize at the line. Brandenberg finished with a career-high 23 points in 27 minutes, 14 in the first half. “I thought Rob was good tonight, but not great. He certainly gave us great energy off the bench when we needed in the first half,” Smart said. “He’s really aggressive on the offensive end and he was able to have some success with that tonight. As good as he was, our coaching staff knows that with more work and experience, he’s only going to get better.” Meanwhile, Georgia State struggled to keep the ball in their possession at all and went into the half trailing 35-18 after a 26-9 VCU run to close the opening session.

At the beginning of half number two, Georgia State showed some life behind the early shooting of James Fields and Dante Curry, but VCU was able to weather the storm (Fields led the Panthers with 13, the only Georgia State player to finish in double figures). Skeen began to assert himself inside, and reserve Troy Daniels provided a spark off the bench with three long-range buckets. Daniels finished with ten points in all.

In the teams’ previous meeting, Eric Buckner dropped 28 points on the Rams to help fuel the Panthers victory at home. In this game, Buckner was held to a mere six points and did not attempt a field goal. Skeen was effective at patrolling the inside, finishing with 15 points and seven rebounds as he continued his steady play. The Rams appeared ready for the punishing style they were subjected to in the first matchup, and refused to back down despite the low scoring outputs from Rodriguez and Burgess (seven points apiece), their veteran leaders. The toughness exhibited by the Rams can only be viewed as a good sign as tough conference play looms.

Meanwhile, the Siegel Center continued to prove to be a formidable opponent in its own right for opposing teams as the home win streak continued. While the season is only roughly halfway over,

the Rams have to feel happy with the way their team has responded in recent games defensively and found a way to win when some of the younger players are called upon to step up.

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Lathan Wells

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