#20 Virginia Commonwealth University avoided losing three games in a row with a 79-66 victory over George Washington in Washington D.C. on Saturday afternoon.
Despite a blistering hot start from 3-point range and the return of Treveon Graham, VCU forfeited a seven-point lead and entered the locker room tied with the Colonials 38-38. The Rams looked unquestionably better than during their last four games when they piled up three losses and one anemic victory over George Mason, but the challenges of George Washington and the Charles E. Smith Center, where the Colonials were 10-0 this season, were simply too much.
In the first half, Patricio Garino was particularly effective. He finished with 22 points (5-9 2PFG, 3-4 3PFG), four rebounds, three assists, three turnovers, and two steals. Kevin Larsen, who finished with one point and five turnovers two weeks ago, never found his scoring but was effective at drawing double teams and then kicking to open 3-point shooters. He finished with seven rebounds and four assists.
Both teams were uncharacteristically effective from 3-point range before intermission. GW is one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country. They started 5-of-10 from 3-point range. VCU started 5-of-7 from 3-point range and had seven makes from beyond the arc at intermission. Crucial to VCU’s offense, there was a feeling that if the hot shooting cooled off, GW could win with their consistent inside attack.
Coming out of the locker room in the second half, VCU pieced together a vintage HAVOC! performance while recapturing some of the magic that has been absent since crushing George Washington in Richmond 72-48 on January 27th.
The Rams held George Washington to 10 points in the first 12:19 of the second half while continuing to make shots from range and attacking the basket. The Rams finished 12-of-30 from 3-point range. Melvin Johnson finished a relieving 5-of-8 from range and Doug Brooks added 4-of-6 3-point shooting.
The return of Treveon Graham was a small boon, but the play of VCU’s role players was impressive and what VCU has been lacking for the past few games. Jarred Guest was a junkyard dog for six minutes of action. Jonathan Williams finished with a career-high nine points in addition to two assists. Doug Brooks was sensational while playing what was arguably one of the best games of his still young career. For the first time in more than two weeks, VCU’s chances of winning the Atlantic 10 are trending in a positive direction.
The Phantom Next Step
Each time George Washington and VCU meet, there is a different reason the Colonials are supposed to take the next step and flip this matchup on its head. First it was the return of GW’s four freshman starters as sophomores in 2014. This season, it was more maturation combined with the addition of Yuta Watanabe and the absence of Briante Weber.
With the exception of last season’s one hiccup in Washington D.C., the Rams have absolutely eaten the Colonials’ lunch. VCU leads the all-time series 8-1. Since the Final Four, VCU is 6-1 with all seven victories coming by double-figures and an average margin of 19.2 points per game.
VCU vs. GW
W · 75-60
W · 84-57
L · 66-76
W · 92-75
W · 74-55
W · 72-48
W · 79-66
Coach Lonergan has done an exceptional job assembling talent and teaching his system, but for now, HAVOC! has thoroughly dominated the matchup.
Top performer: Doug Brooks
14 points (0-1 2PFG, 4-6 3PFG, 2-2 FT), six rebounds, two steals, one turnover
Words can’t adequately capture the unfettered enthusiasm and spark of Doug Brooks. It’s rarely graceful, but it’s always entertaining. “Dougie Buckets” is 20-of-50 (.400) from 3-point range this season and he’s quickly turning into one of VCU’s best options from beyond the arc. He’s also an invaluable perimeter defender, effective rebounder, and he’s improving his ability to get to the rim.
- Justin Tillman and Terry Larrier played 17 total minutes. It’s their fewest combined minutes since November 29th when they played 13 minutes.
- JeQuan Lewis is averaging 15.8 PPG, 4.3 APG, 1 TOPG, and 2 SPG since the injury of Briante Weber.
- VCU hasn’t lost three games in a row since the 2005 season. Coach Smart has lost back-to-back games 11 times in his career.
- Kevin Larsen is averaging two points per game against VCU this season. Larsen was picked to the preseason all-conference second team, and he is averaging 10.9 PPG.
- Terry Larrier is 2-of-16 from 3-point range over the last five games.
VCU hosts St. Louis on Tuesday at 7:30 PM. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network. VCU topped the Billikens 63-61 in Saint Louis on January 23rd after Treveon Graham hit a game-winning bucket with 0.9 seconds remaining.
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