Last March, VCU and UR brought new meaning to basketball in Richmond. After competing for years in the in the same conference, their annual meeting in The Black and Blue Classic has become an important game for both teams. Friday night, the Richmond Spiders traveled crosstown to take on the VCU Rams.
Last March, Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Richmond brought new meaning to basketball in RVA. The success achieved by both teams in the NCAA tournament last season clearly elevated the stakes in this year’s Black and Blue Classic which was played Friday night. After thirty competitive minutes of basketball, the Rams pulled away to beat the UR Spiders 73-51 at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.
Tickets were selling for more than $60 on Stubhub and hundreds of students were turned away from the doors as the most anticipated game of the season, thus far, drew a record seventh consecutive home sellout crowd for VCU.
For the first thirty minutes, both teams traded the lead back and forth. With 9:50 remaining, Bradford Burgess hit a free throw that began a 26-6 run for VCU. In the final ten minutes, The Spiders fouled so frequently and turned the ball over so often that they didn’t score a field goal in the final 8:21.
For all of their defensive success, the final run would not have happened without the offense of sophomore guard Rob Brandenberg. After a scoreless first half, he scored 14 points playing 19 of the final 20 minutes. With four minutes remaining, Brandenberg drained two consecutive contested three pointers to solidify the win. He is undoubtedly the most athletic player on the team, and if he can learn to finish his shots the Rams will have another solid offensive weapon.
UR’s victory last year did a lot to help maintain this rivalry that VCU has dominated historically. VCU has won 7 of the last 8 meetings and they lead the Richmond 41-25 all time. If the University of Richmond can’t find ways to beat the Rams in the next few years, this crosstown rivalry won’t be much of a rivalry.
Junior point guard Darius Theus has been working hard to fill the shoes of Ram legend Joey Rodriguez–and before that Eric Maynor. After the past few games, some have already anointed him the next great leader of the Rams. A deeper look at his statistics suggests that the jury is still out on this player who has a different style than his predecessors.
While Theus has excelled in scoring and limited his turnovers since the start of the season, his fouling has been disappointing. In the past four games, he has averaged 5.6 fouls per 40 minutes and has fouled out of two games. As coach Smart pointed out after the game, tonight Theus’s fouling didn’t cost VCU the game, but he fouled out against Alabama when VCU only trailed by one point. If VCU wants to find success in close games, Darius Theus can not recklessly foul. When Theus wasn’t fouling, he still struggled to stop Cedrick Lindsay who went 7-10 from the field and led all scorers with 22 points.
Coach Smart talked about Briante Weber and Theus on Friday night after the game: on Theus, Smart commented, “he needs to play with more discipline, that’s a fact.” On Weber he said, “he’s one of our best players. He has a bright future.” It will be interesting to see how the starts and the minutes shake out between these two players in the coming games.
Briante Weber has been the focus of attention as the leading freshman contributor, but Treveon Graham should not be overlooked. He had an extremely efficient 15 minute outing going 3-3 for 7 points, grabbed five rebounds, and blocked a shot. On a lackluster rebounding nights for center DJ Haley and forward Juvonte Reddic, Graham and Burgess have helped the Rams stay close on the boards–even against physical basketball teams.
* Friday night was a record seventh consecutive home sell out for the Rams.
* 12 consecutive home sellouts is the Colonial Athletic Association record held by UNC-Wilmington. If the Rams can sell out games over the holidays with fewer students in Richmond, they should be able to break that record.
* Sharpshooter Troy Daniels is shooting .500 from the field and .500 from beyond the arc in the past three games.
* Daniels is shooting .310 from the field and .333 from beyond the arc away from home this season vs. .441 and .433 from beyond the arc at home.
* UR forward Darrius Garrett had seven turnovers, the same amount as all of VCU’s players combined.
Bradford Burgess Record Watch
* Bradford Burgess’s 1,327 career points moves him into 18th all time for the Rams.
* Burgess is two starts away from matching Michael Brown’s school record 121 consecutive starts.
Should the Black and Blue Classic continue to alternate between The Siegel Center and The Robins Center, or should it be held annually in the Richmond Coliseum?
The Rams will take on conference foe UNC-Wilmington on Saturday December 17th at 7pm at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
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