RICHMOND, Va. – The most frequent question that Head Coach Shaka Smart received leading up to the 2009-10 season was about how his Virginia Commonwealth University basketball team was going to replace Eric Maynor.
The class of 2011 showed part of that plan with juniors Larry Sanders (Fort Pierce, Fla.) (right), Brandon Rozzell (Richmond, Va.) and Joey Rodriguez (Oviedo, Fla.) combining for 47 points in VCU's 85-55 exhibition victory over intra-city rival, Virginia Union, on Thursday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.
"I was very pleased with our guys' overall effort today," Smart commented. "We got positive contributions from everyone on our team, which is something you are always looking for as a coaching staff."
The havoc-wreaking style of play that Smart wanted to install showed its face early with the Black & Gold forcing five turnovers in the first seven minutes of play to race out to a 19-9 advantage.
"We used a few good presses at different times throughout the night," Smart added. "It wore them down to a certain extent. One of our goals all year is to force our opponents into at least 20 turnovers and we were able to accomplish that tonight, which is good."
Sanders would flex his muscles the rest of the first half with 14 points and 11 rebounds in the first 20 minutes of play, helping the Rams take a 46-27 edge into the intermission.
The fast-paced tempo of VCU continued to cause the Panthers problems as the Division II powerhouse turned the ball over 10 more times in the second half, while Sanders and classmate Ed Nixon (St. Petersburg, Fla.) chipped in eight second-half points to push the Rams lead to as many as 30 in the second half.
"We are a fast team and like to run a lot," Rozzell said. "We have scorers at all positions so we want to make it hard for teams to match up with our transition. We like to find the guy that's open and knock [the shot] down. I love this style; I love playing fast."
Sanders led the way with 22 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks, while Rozzell knocked down four shots from beyond the arc and finished with 14 points. In his first game at the point guard spot, Rodriguez chipped in 11 points and six assists.
Gregg Redford added 14 points and nine rebounds for Virginia Union.
As a team, the Rams forced 21 turnovers and outrebounded the Panthers, 44-33.
VCU opens its regular season slate next Friday, Nov. 13 when the Cougars of Bethune-Cookman University visit the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center for a 7:30 p.m. match-up.