RICHMOND, Va. – It's tough to find a better motivation technique than revenge. If anyone wants to question that statement, they should have been inside the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center on Wednesday night.
That's where a tremendous defensive effort by the Virginia Commonwealth University men's basketball resulted in a 71-54 throttling of Georgia State in a revenge game after the Panthers toppled the Rams two weeks ago. With the win, the Black & Gold remain in a tie for first-place in the Colonial Athletic Association with Hofstra at 6-1 in league play.
It is the 20th straight home victory for the Rams, who are now tied with Pittsburgh for the sixth longest active home winning streak. Kansas leads the way with 69 consecutive wins at Allen Fieldhouse.
"Our guys were really excited and energized to play this game because of what happened down there. That energy is what carried us through to the win tonight," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "We didn't particularly shoot the ball well tonight, but I thought we had a tremendous focus on the defensive end, which is what made the difference."
For the second straight Wednesday, freshman Rob Brandenberg was outstanding, pouring in 23 points on 6-of-13 shooting, with three steals, three rebounds and two assists on the evening. Senior Jamie Skeen tallied double-digits for the 16th time this year with 15 points on an efficient 6-of-8 from the field.
"I thought Rob was good tonight, but not great. He certainly gave us great energy off the bench when we needed in the first half," Smart said. "He's really aggressive on the offensive end and he was able to have some success with that tonight. As good as he was, our coaching staff knows that with more work and experience, he's only going to get better."
It was a slow offensive start for both teams, but Brandenberg came off the bench and chipped in five straight points to give the Black & Gold a 9-6 lead with 12:39 to play.
With the score tied at 9-9, VCU turned up the defense and forced 13 GSU turnovers en route to a 26-9 run to end the first half and send the Black & Gold into halftime with a commanding 35-18 lead. Brandenberg and Skeen carried the offense in the first half, going a combined 7-of-9 from the field and scoring 24 of VCU's 35 first-half points.
Seven points each from sophomore Troy Daniels and Skeen helped the Black & Gold balloon their lead to as many as 24.
The "HAVOC" style of Coach Smart and crew was evident once again as the Panthers tallied 24 turnovers to just six assists on the evening, while VCU, who ranks in the top-15 nationally in steals, recorded 13 thefts.
Brandenberg's 23 points raised his career-high by one point after the Gahanna, Ohio native tallied 22 last week against William & Mary. While Skeen was solid offensively once again, he was a force on the other end, limiting Eric Buckner to just six points and zero field goal attempts. That came after Buckner scored 28 in GSU's win over the Rams on January 3.
Daniels finished with 10 points in 12 minutes, while senior Joey Rodriguez had a complete game with seven points, six assists and five rebounds.
James Fields was the only Panther in double-figures with 13 points, while also grabbing five rebounds. Jihad Ali came off the bench to tally eight points and seven rebounds for GSU.
The Rams return to action on Saturday for the ultimate rivalry game as they travel to Norfolk to take on the Monarchs of Old Dominion. Game time on Comcast SportsNet is set for 4 p.m.