RICHMOND, VA. – The anticipation had been building for seven months and it was obvious the minute the doors of the Verizon Wireless Arena opened that Ram Nation had been yearning for some VCU basketball.
It was evident from the type that Havoc was back as VCU forced 24 turnovers with 18 steals to get by California (Pa.), 71-48, in the Black & Gold's lone exhibition contest of the 2011-12 season. Offensively, the Rams had five players in double-figures led by freshman Treveon Graham with 16 points.
"Being so early, I think we still have a long way to go, but we did see some good things to go along with a lot of things we need to improve," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "The nerves were obvious in the first half, but we got good shots and I think we saw that when we started making some shots in the second half. Defensively, even though we held them under 50 points, I think we can really make some big strides in that area and be a much better team on that end."
Graham's aggressiveness got him to the charity stripe 13 times to go along with 4-of-8 from the field for a team-high 16 points. Sophomore Juvonte Reddic tallied a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, as well as two blocks and a steal. Bradford Burgess (12 points), Troy Daniels (11 points) and Rob Brandenberg (10 points) rounded out the double-figure scorers.
In his first game as the team's starting floor general, junior Darius Theus chipped in five points, five assists and six steals, while never turning it over.
"I thought we saw some good things from Darius, especially in the second half," Smart said. "He's improving every day in the leadership category and has a chance to be really special for us this year."
With a crowd of nearly 7,000, the nerves of both squads were evident with a tough shooting performance early leading to low-scoring 21-19 halftime score.
It must have been a good halftime speech from Smart as the Rams came out of the locker rooms with a 21-5 run, capped off by a beautiful fast break lay-up and free-throw from Brandenberg to give the Rams a 42-24 advantage with 12:38 to play.
A three-pointer from Burgess with 9:46 remaining gave VCU their first 20-plus point cushion of the night and it would stay that way, reaching as much as 26 on an old-fashioned three-point play by Graham.
The Black & Gold lit up the nets in the second-half, connecting on 59.3% from the field, including 5-of-10 from long range.
All 10 available players saw the hardwood for the Rams with eight of them finding the scoring column and seven of them registering a steal.
The Rams will open up the regular-season next Friday against Saint Francis (Pa.). Prior to the game, the 2011 Final Four banner will be unveiled to all of Ram Nation. Game time at the Verizon Wireless Arena is set for 7:30 p.m.