RICHMOND, Va. – Legendary football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant once said, "Offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships."
At VCU, defense is doing both as the men's basketball team used another suffocating defensive effort to win their fifth straight, 61-49 over Hofstra on Monday night. The victory came in front of the 14th consecutive sellout crowd at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.
"I'm really proud of the way our guys defended in the second half, I thought we did a nice job of sticking to our principles on that end," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "It wasn't our best game, but I thought we did a nice job defensively to keep us out in front. Anytime you can hold a team to under 50 points, you have a pretty good chance to win."
The win marked the second straight game that VCU has held an opponent under 50 points, which hadn't happened since the 2007-08 season. On the year, the Rams have held five opponents to under 50 points. Prior to this season, VCU had held a team to fewer 50 six times in the last three years combined.
"I don't think there's anything different, we just have a renewed emphasis on our half-court pressure," Smart said. "People talk about our full-court pressure, but we also want our half-court to be very disruptive as well. We've been able to run through some passes that way, it's really a good way to disrupt the other team offensively. I think that's been a real commitment that our players have made."
Offensively, the Rams showed their balanced attack once again with four players in double-figures with senior Bradford Burgess leading the way with 14 points. He also added eight rebounds and three steals on the evening. Sophomore Juvonte Reddic registered his second double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds. The junior duo of Troy Daniels and Darius Theus were once again big for the Black & Gold, combining for 22 points, six assists, three rebounds, two steals and 8-of-13 shooting.
"Every guy on this team is capable of having a big night offensively and tonight shows that with four guys in double-figures," Burgess said. "We're not shooting the ball great recently, but we know that if we can do all the other little things that we'll have a chance to win every night."
Hofstra, who entered the night having lost seven CAA games by a total of 42 points, went basket for basket with the Rams early until a three-pointer from Daniels capped off an early 7-0 run that gave VCU a 19-12 lead with 10:56 to play in the first half.
The Pride chimed right back with five straight points, but the Black & Gold responded with an 8-0 run capped off by a three-pointer from freshman Treveon Graham.
However, Mike Moore wouldn't let Hofstra fall too far behind with 11 first-half points including a three-pointer that he banked home to end the half and send the teams into the break with VCU leading 35-32.
The suffocating defense took over in the second half when the Rams held the Pride to just one field goal over the first 8:21, while pushing their lead to nine. That's as close as Hofstra would get the rest of the night as Burgess and company went a perfect 6-for-6 from the stripe in the last four minutes to secure the win.
"I give a lot of credit to VCU and Shaka and his staff. I thought their pressure was just relentless all night and really caused us a lot of trouble," Hofstra Head Coach Mo Cassara said.
For the 13th time this year, the Rams tallied double-digits steals with 11 on the night, led by freshman Briante Weber who picked up four thefts. VCU now ranks second in the country in steals per game with an average of 10 per outing.
VCU will cap off their four game in seven day stretch when they head to Towson on Wednesday evening. Game time at the Towson Center is set for 7 p.m.