RICHMOND, Va. – Every holiday season there is a handful of items that dominate Christmas lists countrywide. They're the hottest items for every man, woman and child.
One of those items this holiday season is a VCU basketball ticket as the Rams tied a Colonial Athletic Association record with their ninth straight sellout at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. The Black & Gold treated the capacity crowd to a fifth straight victory in a 68-49 beatdown of UAB.
"I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but I can't say enough about the crowd, it was phenomenal once again tonight," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "To be able to play in front of a sold out crowd when most of the students are home for the holidays, it's truly something special."
The ninth straight sellouts date back to Jan. 29, 2011 against UNCW and tie a CAA record set by the Seahawks during the 2002 campaign. The previous VCU record was four consecutive set in 2007-08.
"It says a great deal about all the people who have worked some hard to make this program what it is today, especially all the fans that have supported us along the way," Smart added.
For the game, freshman Treveon Graham and sophomore Juvonte Reddic combined for 34 points and 12 rebounds to lead the offensive attack. Graham led all scorers with a career-high 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting, while also pulling down six rebounds and picking up two steals. Meanwhile Reddic went 8-of-9 from the field for 16 points and six rebounds, five of which came on the offensive glass.
"The best part about those two guys is that they are both just scratching the surface of how good they can be," Smart said. "If they continue to work hard and focus on getting better each time they step on the court, they have the potential to be special players."
It was yet another stellar defensive effort from the Black & Gold, who forced 20+ turnovers for the fifth time this year (23 by UAB) and tallied double-digit steals for the seventh time this year (14 tonight). The Blazers became VCU's sixth opponent this year to be held to 60 points or less.
"We know that with our style of play of play that we're going to be able to wear some teams down," senior Bradford Burgess said. "We just know that we have to be focused on playing our style of play for 40 minutes and that all starts on the defensive end. We've done a good job of that recently, but we have to continue to stay locked in on getting better and better each day."
After a slow start offensively, the game picked up thanks to Reddic who connected on all seven of his field goal attempts in the first half. With the game tied at 13, the sophomore sparked a 15-4 run that allowed the Rams to take control of the game.
VCU took a 36-26 lead into the halftime break and came out in the second stanza locked in, holding the Blazers without a field goal for the first 7:57. Over that stretch, the Rams took off on a 14-2 spurt that pushed the lead to 22 at 50-28 with 14:27 to play.
Once again, freshman Briante Weber (pictured, left) was a ballhawk all night long, including three second half steals and helped force 13 second-half turnovers by the Blazers.
"Defensively, Briante is the definition of wreaking havoc and you could see that once again tonight," Smart said. "Every program, team or company has energy givers and energy takers. Briante is probably the best energy giver I've ever coached."
VCU was able to convert on 23 Blazer turnovers in the game with 30 points off turnovers. In the past three games, the Rams have outscored their opposition 92-21 in the points off turnovers category.
The contest also marked the 121st straight start for Burgess, which tied VCU's all-time record for consecutive starts, originally set by Michael Brown from 1981-84. He is the active leader in career starts in all of college basketball.
Up next for the Rams is a Thursday evening showdown in Greensboro against UNCG. Game time on ESPN3 is set for 7 p.m.