It was close for 20 minutes, but VCU cruised to an 86-68 win over UMass, Thursday night in the Stu.
It was close for 20 minutes, but Virginia Commonwealth University cruised to an 86-68 win over Massachusetts Thursday night in the Stuart C. Siegel Center.
Behind the speed of Chaz Williams and the quick trigger of Troy Daniels, the
track meet basketball game began at an incredible tempo. Both teams flew back and forth in the 7.5 minutes leading up to the first media timeout–the score was already 18-17.
Williams was very effective at finding open shooters in transition in the first half. A flurry of fouls by VCU slowed down the game, and the Rams entered the locker room trailing 42-37 at halftime.
Exiting the locker room, VCU looked like a different team. After an 0-8 start from the field in the first half, Rob Brandenberg quickly asserted himself. It took him 75 seconds to score a layup, grab a steal, hit a 3-pointer, and get to the free-throw line for a personal 6-0 run to recapture the lead. Seconds later he grabbed another steal.
His explosion was just the beginning of a 21-1 VCU run that would break the spirits of the Minutemen while ultimately putting the game out of reach. At one point VCU was on a 44-12 run before Smart began experimenting with lineups.
At times this year VCU has struggled coming out of the locker room. While the Rams played with plenty of emotion in the second half, Coach Smart kept his halftime speech very focused on Xs and Os.
We’re in a really good place in terms of how the game is going. We’ve got the style of play going our way, and we weren’t making a lot of layups around the basket but we were getting in the lane which is what we want. We were getting some good shots.
Loudest moment: 108dB. 6:29 remaining in the 2nd half. Off of a Troy Daniels missed 3-pointer, Juvonte Reddic elevated and jammed the put-back dunk to put VCU ahead by 25 points.
After an unexpected absence against Fordham, and a DNP against Charlotte, junior center DJ Haley finally saw minutes Thursday night. Traditionally one of VCU’s earlier subs, Haley found himself below Jarred Guest and David Hinton in the rotation, but both experienced foul trouble opening up the opportunity for Haley. “It was great to get him back out there playing. DJ has done a lot of good things over the years to help us and he’s very, very capable”, said coach Smart moments after Haley slammed a put-back dunk to earn the sell-out crowd free breakfast sandwiches from McDonalds.
Top performer: Melvin Johnson
18 minutes, 18 points, 8-13 shooting, 2-4 3-point shooting
It was only a matter of time before we experienced this type of Melvin Johnson performance. After scoring 12 points on three separate occasions, the freshman finally made the leap scoring a career-high 18 points.
“The first break was at the 12:30 mark, so I was on the bench anxious to get in.” His first stretch off the bench was uneventful, but only seconds after reentering the game he drained a 3-pointer and never looked back. Coach Smart was pleased,
He was great, I thought his approach was terrific. He was very confident, yet he respected the scouting report and respected what it was going to take to be successful. Now it’s a matter of can he take this success and understand what brought him success and create the same approach next time.
Consistant scoring from the 2-spot is something VCU has lacked since the Final Four. The emergence of Johnson, combined with Brandenberg, could be invaluable for VCU during the rest of the season.
- There was one foul in the first 7:30. There were 40 fouls in the next 32:30.
- With 152 career steals, sophomore Briante Weber ranks 7th all time at VCU.
- With 411 assists, Darius Theus now ranks 8th all time at VCU.
- In a battle between two pressing teams, VCU dominated the turnover battle, 24-8.
- VCU has now won 20+ games for seven straight seasons.
There’s no time to celebrate. George Washington visits the Siegel Center on Saturday night at 7:30 PM.
— ∮∮∮ —
— ∮∮∮ —