After trailing by as many as 17 points in the second half, VCU rallied to top Xavier, 75-71, in Cincinnati Saturday afternoon.
After trailing by as many as 17 points in the second half, Virginia Commonwealth University rallied to top Xavier, 75-71, in Cincinnati Saturday afternoon.
Days removed from Tuesday’s embarrassing 76-62 road loss to Saint Louis, VCU looked to establish themselves early against Xavier, but HAVOC! was nowhere to be found as the Rams found themselves in an early hole.
It was the same story as Tuesday. VCU struggled to score which limited their opportunities to set up full court defenses. Without the pressure, Xavier shredded VCU’s half court defense. The Musketeers scored on command en route to a 39-26 halftime lead.
Brad Redford and Dee Davis were responsible for most of the damage. Redford finished with 15 points on 5-of-8 3-point shooting and Dee Davis finished with 15 points. Davis left the game in the second half with an injury after a head-to-head collision with defending Melvin Johnson.
At the start of the second half, Semaj Christon stole the ball from a passive Juvonte Reddic and Xavier took a game high 17-point lead. Troy Daniels responded with a 3-pointer, a rebound, and another 3-pointer. Juvonte Reddic then grabbed a steal and took it the distance for a fast break dunk. On the next possession, Treveon Graham grabbed a rebound and drained free-throws to score the 9th and 10th straight points for VCU.
Suddenly the Rams had new life, and they were only 10 points and 97 seconds into an eight-minute, 24-5 run that would give them a 50-48 lead. Possession after possession, HAVOC! found different ways to force turnovers many times before Xavier even crossed the timeline.
After VCU took the lead, both teams traded blows until the final seconds. After free-throws, a 73-68 lead felt safe, but Justin Martin drained a huge 3-pointer with 20 seconds remaining. Rob Brandenberg sealed the deal seconds later with two more free-throws.
Coach Smart tried to explain how VCU could come back from a large deficit, “Energy and spirit, it’s gotta start with that. When we can get in our press, we can really deny teams, pressure the ball, and trap.”
One of the premier freshman point guards in the nation, Semaj Christon finished with 11 points, 7 assists, 10 turnovers, and four personal fouls. He regularly left his feet with the basketball and was forced into the errant passes or poor decisions–many times 60 feet from the basket. Shutting down opponent’s point guards has been the difference between dominating in the A-10 and losing to teams like Saint Louis or La Salle.
After the game, Coach Smart had some great comments on Troy Daniels:
He has a green light on our team. We have plays on our team that we name after him. He knows that if we call his number and he is open he should fire it. I get mad at him when he doesn’t shoot.
Top performer: Rob Brandenberg
18 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 6-10 shooting
After living in Cincinnati until 2004, Rob Brandenberg returned and proved that when he attacks the rim good things happen for VCU. He was the Rams’ most efficient scorer on Saturday, but he earned this recognition because of his late game free-throw shooting. In the final 26 seconds, he was 4-4 from the free throw line. Both trips to the charity stripe were 1-and-1s, and missing one free-throw could have changed the outcome of the game. Good things happen when Brandenberg plays with confidence. Entering the home stretch, this is the perfect time in the season for his play to peak.
- VCU, Duke, Gonzaga, Akron, and Kansas are the only five teams to win 22+ games in each of the past eight seasons.
- VCU forced SLU into only eight turnovers. Xavier finished with 22 turnovers, including 10 by Semaj Christon.
- Troy Daniels broke his own record (94) for 3-pointers made in a season. With 99 3-pointers, he should become the first triple digit sharpshooter in VCU history.
- Saturday was the first time in 15 games that Xavier lost the rebounding battle.
- Xavier grabbed 3 offensive rebounds. It is the fewest by a VCU opponent since Northern Iowa grabbed 3 on 2/17/12.
VCU hosts #15 Butler on Saturday, March 2nd at 12:00 PM. It will be the first game between the two teams since April 2nd, 2011 when Butler topped VCU 70-62 in the Final Four.
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