NIXON, RAMS DEFEND HOME BASE WITH 82-67 VICTORY OVER HOFSTRA
RICHMOND, Va. – It was the match-up everybody wanted. Two teams tied atop the Colonial Athletic Association standings, a 20-game home winning streak, the league's best player and the league's hottest team all in front of a nationally-televised audience.
Thursday night did not disappoint for anyone wearing Black & Gold as the Virginia Commonwealth University men's basketball defended their home base with an 82-67 victory of Charles Jenkins and the Hofstra Pride to grab sole possession of first-place in the CAA.
The victory extends VCU's winning streak to eight games and moves their record to 17-5 overall and 9-1 in conference play. It also stretches the Black & Gold's home winning streak to 21 games, the fourth-best active mark in the country.
"I'm proud of the way our guys continue to focus on what we do best and continue to execute our style of play," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "This is the position we wanted to be in at this point and for the rest of the year, it's never a bad thing to be in first place."
In front of over 7,200 at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, senior Ed Nixon controlled Jenkins, the country's third-leading scorer, holding him to 20 points and just 2-of-7 in the second half. Nixon also added 14 points, six assists, four rebounds, two blocks and one steal.
"That's one of the best defensive efforts you'll ever see against Charles," Hofstra Coach Mo Cassara said. "Nixon worked his tail off all night and really caused us problems in all aspects of our offensive sets."
Along with Nixon, senior Jamie Skeen poured in a team-high 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting and freshman Juvonte Reddic notched a career-high 13 points and five rebounds. Junior Bradford Burgess (pictured, left)recorded his second double-double of the year with 15 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
"All year, but particularly during the last couple weeks, our depth has really been a key factor in our success," Smart said. "Every night we have different guys stepping up, on both the offensive and defensive end. It makes our jobs as coaches a little easier when that is happening."
With the teams battling back and forth to start the contest, Skeen scored eight of the game's next 14 points to lead a 11-3 VCU run to take a commanding 29-20 lead with 7:35 to play in the first half.
Jenkins would get hot and bring the Pride within five, but sophomore Troy Daniels banged home two three-pointers as VCU closed out the first half on a 15-5 run to head into halftime with a 48-33 lead.
The Rams would never let up, keeping the lead above 13 for the entire second-half and stretching it out above 20 points on four different occasions. It was Nixon's defensive effort that highlighted the second stanza as he stifled Jenkins to just five points and 2-of-7 shooting.
"He is an unbelievable player and I knew that I had to be locked in for all 40 minutes," Nixon said. "It's not like I did this by myself, defense takes effort from all five guys and that's what we were able to do tonight."
VCU put together its most complete effort of the year on the glass, out-rebounding the Pride, 39-30, led by Burgess' 14 boards. The Black & Gold were also extremely efficient on the offensive end, dishing out 18 assists, while turning it over just seven times.
Jenkins led all scorers with 20 points, while also dishing out five assists and grabbing three rebounds. Greg Washington was the only other Hofstra player in double-figures with 15 points and six rebounds.
The Black & Gold complete their four game in eight day run with a Homecoming match-up against UNC Wilmington on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.