Recap: VCU wreaks HAVOC! on #19 Memphis

It was all HAVOC!, all night Thursday as VCU beat #19 Memphis 78-65 in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Virginia Commonwealth University put on a show on national television Thursday night by beating #19 Memphis, 78-65, in the Battle 4 Atlantis.


It was all HAVOC!, all night as VCU jumped ahead 12-4 and didn’t give up the lead for the entire 40 minutes.

VCU forced turnover after turnover in the first half while draining shots to pull ahead 42-28 at halftime. For all of VCU’s success, they also made several careless mistakes including moving screen violations, offensive fouls, and a few errant passes.

In the second half, those mistakes caught up with the Rams as Memphis cut the lead to 50-47 with 12:16 remaining on a Chris Crawford layup. Treveon Graham responded with a four point play, and Troy Daniels hit another 3-pointer a minute later to expand the lead to seven.

With 4:06 remaining, Memphis battled back to 63-61 on a Tariq Black jumper. Treveon Graham again responded with a layup, and Darius Theus forced a steal and assisted Rob Brandenberg on another 3-pointer just 23 seconds later.

Memphis likes to run and score in transition, but VCU sped the game up to a frenzied pace and the Tigers made countless mistakes while tallying 22 turnovers. Talented point guard and leading scorer Joe Jackson looked lost as he was limited to six points and two assists against seven turnovers. He fouled out with 6:40 remaining in the game on a careless defensive play–because that’s what VCU does: the Rams make good players look lost by wreaking HAVOC! on their psyche.

Elite recruit Shaq Goodwin, who was coached by Shaka Smart under USA Basketball during the summer, joined Jackson on the bench after tallying his fifth foul with 3:12 remaining. After that, VCU finished on a 13-4 run including 3-pointers by Rob Brandenberg and Treveon Graham.

Memphis has a roster loaded with talent including three McDonald’s All-Americans, but head coach Josh Pastner’s teams have received criticism in the past for playing undisciplined basketball. Thursday’s game fit those criticisms as the Tigers relied on their NBA-like athleticism to get the job done instead of running offense. Memphis played a lot of full-court defense which gave VCU problems against Wichita State, but Teddy Okereafor and Darius Theus handled the pressure brilliantly by dribbling straight through it. Theus executed countless beautiful spin moves around defenders 60 feet from the basket to beat the pressure and put VCU in its half-court offense where it executed with uncharacteristic success.

The victory will have lasting effects on VCU’s RPI/ Strength of Schedule. Instead of immediately moving to the loser’s bracket and playing unranked teams, the Rams are guaranteed two more games against ranked opponents. After facing #5 Duke on Friday night, VCU will play either #2 Louisville or #13 Missouri Saturday. Additionally, the Ram’s remaining two games will be televised on NBC Sports Network instead of being relegated to

Top performer: Treveon Graham

26Pts, 5Rebs, 1Ast, 3Stl

Graham scored a career high 26-points against a defensively talented team in a high pressure game. #21 can flat-out score, and his ability to play as an undersized power forward makes VCU’s system work. Hopefully Thanksgiving is a bellwether for the the rest of the season.

5 stats

  • VCU shot 13-22 (.591) from 3-point range. It was their highest percentage from behind the arc since shooting 20-33 (.606) against Towson on Jan. 27, 2010.
  • Treveon Graham and Rob Brandenberg shot 2-14 (.143) for 6 points against Wichita State. Thursday they shot 13-19 (.684) including 9-11 (.818) from 3-point range while scoring 41 points.
  • Rob Brandenberg entered the game 1-11 (.091) from 3-point range, but he went 5-5 from beyond the arc on Thursday night.
  • VCU has held 9 straight opponents under 65 points. Memphis was the first team to score more than 57 points against the Rams this season.
  • This was VCU’s first regular season win over a ranked opponent since topping #17 Oklahoma 82-69 on November 21st, 2009.

Looking forward

VCU takes on #5 Duke Friday night at 7:00 PM on the NBC Sports Network (Comcast 226 & Verizon 90/590 HD).

Duke forward #5 Mason Plumlee is having one of the hottest starts in college basketball. Through four games, the senior is averaging 21.7PPG, 8.7RPG, 2APG, and 2.7BPG while shooting .774 from the field. Plumlee is a physical force and VCU’s front court will likely struggle to contain him. The Ram’s best option is to limit his touched by forcing turnovers and occasionally double teaming him.

Duke boasts a top-10 offense that has multiple scoring options. The Blue Devils shoot very efficiently from 2-point and 3-point range while also forcing turnovers on defense. Senior forward #34 Ryan Kelly joins Mason Plumlee in the front court, but Kelly can step out and drain 3-pointers. #30 Seth Curry, #14 Rasheed Sulaimon, and #2 Quinn Cook are the core of a talented set of guards that will hit shots if presented with the opportunity.

Despite all of the talent, Coach Mike Krzyzewski maintains a small rotation. This season, Coach Smart has been fueling the high octane HAVOC! with a very large rotation to wear out opponents, which clearly helped against Memphis. Don’t be surprised if Smart continues subbing three or four players at a time in order to throw bodies at Duke on defense.

So far this season, Duke has struggled to defend the 3-point line. If VCU maintains its offensive swagger from Saturday and Thursday, the Rams could score some serious points against its first ACC opponent of the season.

Prediction: Duke is the clear favorite. This VCU team is talented, but Mason Plumlee will be a handful for the Rams. VCU will need to limit Plumlee’s touches, and drain 3-pointers to find success over this top-5 team.

Of course, people assumed that Duke would cruise past VCU in 2007:

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Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams loves music, basketball (follow @rvaramnews!), family, learning, and barbecue sauce.

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