RICHMOND, Va. – For the past eight days, the VCU basketball team was focused on finishing the fall semester strong academically. On Saturday night, the Rams were focused on acing their Colonial Athletic Association opener against UNCW.
A school record 20 steals and 28 forced turnovers helped the Black & Gold do just that. VCU wreaked HAVOC all over the Seahawks in an 87-64 victory in front of yet another sellout crowd at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. The capacity crowd extended the school record sellout streak to eight and is now just one away from tying the CAA record.
"Once again, I can't say enough about how phenomenal the crowd was tonight," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "It really says a lot about the following that we have here at VCU when on a night like tonight, when a lot of kids are gone for the holidays and we're still sold out. I've said it many times before, but I've never been to a place that our fans have such a great relationship with our players. It's terrific."
HAVOC was on full display at the Siegel Center tonight as the Black & Gold forced the Seahawks into turnovers on 39.1% of their possessions, which led to VCU scoring 41 points off turnovers compared to just four points off turnovers for UNCW. The 28 forced turnovers is the most since Jan. 2, 2010 and marks the fourth time this year that the Rams have forced 20 or more turnovers.
"Our pressure was good tonight, which I think got them on their heels a little bit," Smart said. "But to be honest, I thought we played a better defensive game against South Florid and Richmond. We lacked some discipline in spots tonight, but that's why we have practice."
Offensively, senior Bradford Burgess led four Rams in double-digits with 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 5-of-10 from beyond the arc. He also added three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Sophomore Juvonte Reddic was terrific with 16 points and nine rebounds against one of the CAA's best big men, UNCW's Keith Rendleman. Troy Daniels and Treveon Graham both added 15 points off the bench for the Black & Gold. Junior Darius Theus had a complete stat line with six points, eight assists and a school-record tying seven steals.
"We've got a group of guys that really pull for one another and try to create plays for each other," Smart said. "They really want to try and get each other great shots; we do a pretty nice job of that. We've got a pretty unselfish group of guys."
It was tight early, but seven points from Daniels sparked a 12-2 run in the middle of the first half that gave VCU a double-digit lead that it would never relinquish.
Along with Daniels, Reddic was the star of the first half for the Black & Gold bringing the capacity crowd to its feet on multiple occasions with powerful dunks and at one point scored 10 straight points for the Rams.
After taking a 45-32 into halftime, Burgess and Daniels capped off a 13-5 spurt to start the second half and push VCU's lead to 21 at 58-37 with 15:31 to play.
The cushion would reach as high 27 at one point, but Rendleman's double-double effort (12 pts, 12 rebs) helped UNCW cut it to 19 at one point before Graham scored VCU's final six points to wrap up the 87-64 rout.
VCU's 20 steals tonight broke the old school record of 19, reached twice, once against Buffalo (2/17/93) and once against North Carolina A&T (12/15/03). It was also tied for the most by steals for any team in a game between two Division I schools this year.
The Rams now quickly turn their focus on UAB, who comes to Richmond on Tuesday for a 7:30 p.m. showdown. VCU will be looking for a conference tying ninth straight sellout.