RICHMOND, Va. – The night started with a look back on a magical run to the Final Four that changed VCU forever. It ended with Ram Nation getting a glimpse of who will be leading them into the future.
Junior Troy Daniels and sophomore Juvonte Reddic combined for 41 points and 16 rebounds to lead the VCU men's basketball team to a season-opening 63-57 victory over Saint Francis (Pa.) on Final Four Banner night at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.
"Well tonight we definitely saw some good things and a lot of things we need to work on," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "The atmosphere in here was terrific, it is something that our players and coaching staff are really appreciate every time we step on the court."
Both Daniels and Reddic posted career-highs in points and rebounds on the evening. Daniels drilled five three-pointers en route to a team-high 22 points, while also grabbing six boards and picking up two steals. Reddic registered his first career double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
"I actually thought both of them had just ok nights for us," Smart said. "The obviously did a lot of good things if you look at the stat sheet, but there are always things all of we can get better at and that's exactly what we will focus on when we take the practice court tomorrow."
Reddic brought the capacity crowd to its feet with a dunk less than a minute in, but VCU saw the Red Flash hang tough and actually hold a 21-20 lead over the Rams with 6:13 left in the first half.
That's when Daniels caught fire, drilling back-to-back three-pointers to spark an 18-2 run that gave the Black & Gold a 33-21 lead with 2:19 remaining before the break.
VCU would take a 36-27 lead into the intermission thanks in part to 14 points from Daniels and relentless pressure that forced 10 turnovers from Saint Francis.
The Rams would extend the lead to as much as 16 on two occasions in the second half, but the Red Flash continued to display their scrappiness, crawling to within three points of the Black & Gold with under a minute to play. Saint Francis jumped on the back of Umar Shannon, who finished with a game-high 26 points and drilled a three-pointer from way downtown to cut the lead to 58-55 with 46 seconds left on the clock.
Daniels would saw nerves of steel and bang home a three-pointer from the right corner to put the game away and secure the 63-57 victory for the Black & Gold.
The win was the ninth straight home-opening victory for the Rams and marked the fifth straight sellout dating back to last year, a first in school history.
VCU will hit the road for the next five games with the first stop being at the Charleston Classic next week. The Black & Gold will take on Seton Hall in the first round with tip set for 5:30 p.m. on Thursday evening.