RICHMOND, Va. – Shortly after VCU's game day shootaround, Head Coach Shaka Smart challenged sophomore big man D.J. Haley to go after a career-high in rebounds. The magic number he set for Haley was eight.
The Palmdale, Calif. native pulled down three more than his magic number set by Smart earlier in the day en route to his first career double-double. With Haley's double-double and 22 points from senior Bradford Burgess, the Rams rolled to their 10th straight victory, 66-43, over the Tigers of Towson University.
"I was proud of the way our guys played tonight," Smart said. "We played with good energy, passed the ball well and really were able to put pressure on them defensively. It was a big point of emphasis to get the ball inside and it was nice to see D.J. Haley have a career night, as well as seeing Brad get over 20 for the first time in a while."
Haley finished with career-highs in points (11), rebounds (10) and steals (3). Burgess, who was making his 136th consecutive start, poured in 22 points on 8-of-15 from the field and tied a career-high with six three-pointers on the evening. It was Burgess' third game this year with 20-plus points and 13th of his career.
"Feels good to be back in the press conference again," Burgess said laughing. "It felt good to see some shots drop tonight. I was really working on being more shot ready and I think I was able to do that for the first time in a while tonight."
It was a game in which the Rams would never trail, taking an early 4-0 lead on buckets by Burgess and Haley and never looking back. Towson would stay close for much of the first half, before the Black & Gold closed the stanza on a 12-4 run capped off by a nice jump hook from junior David Hinton to send VCU into halftime with a 32-20 advantage.
The second half was much of the same with the Rams starting off on a 5-0 run with a jump hook by sophomore Juvonte Reddic and a trey by Burgess to force a quick timeout by the Tigers. VCU's pressure rattled Towson all night long to the tune of 28 turnovers and 19 steals by the Rams.
VCU's lead would stay above 20 for much of the final 10 minutes of the game with Smart using his depth all night long, playing all 12 available players, 10 of which saw double-figure in minutes.
"This is one of the deepest teams I've ever played on," Burgess said. "Every guy in that locker room is capable of having a big night and I think you've seen that this year. I haven't been scoring the way I've wanted to recently, but other guys have stepped up. That's what it's going to take to accomplish our goals, a total team effort."
It was the eighth time this year that VCU held their opposition to under 50 points and are allowing an average of just 58.3 points per game, which ranks 15th in the country. Their 10.3 steals per game lead the country, as well as their 27.6% opponent's turnover rate.
The 10-game win streak is the longest since the 2006-07 season and the eighth win streak in school history to reach double-digits.
"We just have to stay focused and hungry," Haley said. "In order to reach the goals we have as a team, we can't let ourselves be satisfied or complacent at any point."
VCU will put their win streak on the line in enemy territory on Saturday afternoon as they travel to Norfolk to take on hated rival, Old Dominion. Tip time on The Comcast Network is set for 2 p.m.