January 12, 2012

DEFENSE, REBOUNDING LEAD RAMS TO 65-45 WIN OVER JMU

Around the Horns: Ready Graham, Frosh Answers the Call

RICHMOND, Va. – Following game nights at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, a member of the VCU facilities staff can usually be found cleaning the glass backboards in the wee hours of the morning.

That won't be necessary after Thursday's game as the Rams spent all night cleaning the glass, outrebounding James Madison and stifling them on the defensive end en route to a 65-45 victory. The win came in front of yet another sellout inside the Siegel Center, extending the school and CAA record to 11 consecutive sellouts.

"I'm proud of the way our guys defended tonight and really locked in on the game plan we had which was defending the three-point line and rebounding. I thought we did a nice job in both areas tonight," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "I really thought we did a good job of a team effort when it came to rebounding. We don't normally out rebound teams by double-figures, but we were able to tonight and it was big for us."

The Rams owned a 44-30 advantage on the glass with both Bradford Burgess (12) and Juvonte Reddic (11) grabbing double-digits rebounds. The +14 rebounding margin was the most since Feb. 16, 2009 when VCU outrebounded Drexel by 19.  In the previous two seasons, the Rams had two players with 10+ rebounds a total of three times, Reddic and Burgess have done it twice within the past eight days.

 "Ever since our game at Drexel, we've turned our focus solely to JMU and we knew that rebounding was key. They were 8-0 when they won the rebounding battle, so that was our focus from the jump," Burgess said. "We had to make sure they got one and dones on the offensive end and I think we did a good job of that tonight."

Burgess also added 10 points for his seventh career double-double. Freshman Treveon Graham was the answer offensively for VCU with a career-high 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting, while junior Darius Theus added 12 points and four assists.

 But it was the defensive effort that was the most impressive with JMU hitting just one field-goal in the final 12:17 and just 4-of-17 from beyond the arc. The Dukes entered the evening leading the CAA with 7.5 three-pointers per contest. VCU has now held 12 of its 17 opponents to 65 points or less, including four straight.

"I thought our pressure was a little better tonight, but we still have a ways to go with it," Smart said. "JMU has really good, savvy guards that have been around and dealt with pressure. I think tonight it was more a cumulative effect that the pressure had, wearing them down a little bit as the game went on."

The two teams traded baskets early on until the Rams ran off an 11-2 run capped off by a three-pointer by Graham that gave VCU a 21-14 advantage with 6:48 remaining in the first half. JMU would cut the lead to four, but three-pointers by Theus and classmate Troy Daniels helped the Black & Gold head to the locker room with a nine-point cushion, 33-24.

A.J. Davis and the Dukes came out of break on fire with a 13-4 run to even the game at 37-37 with 15:08 left on the regulation clock.

Enter VCU's stifling defense which allowed just three more JMU field goals and allowed the Rams to end the game on a 28-8 run.

The Rams face a quick turnaround as they head to Delaware for a Saturday afternoon showdown with the Fightin' Blue Hens. Game time on The Comcast Network is set for 4 p.m.

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