BENCH LIFTS RAMS TO 75-65 VICTORY OVER NORTHEASTERN IN CAA QUARTERFINALS
RICHMOND, Va. – Anyone who has watched the VCU men's basketball team this year knows that all 13 players on the roster don't care who gets the spotlight as long as it means a victory for the Black & Gold.
If that wasn't clear going into the CAA Tournament, the Rams made it clear in their 75-65 quarterfinal victory over Northeastern on Saturday evening at a sold-out Richmond Coliseum. Nine different players tallied double-figures in minutes and five different players had eight points or more to lead another balanced attack.
"I'm proud of the way our guys battled and found a way to win even when some things didn't go our way," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "We've got a group of guys that are really unselfish and don't really care who gets the credit as long as we win."
The Rams bench dominated the game, outscoring the Husky bench by a tally of 46-4. Leading the reserves was sophomore Rob Brandenberg and freshman Treveon Graham, who combined for 35 points on 12-of-20 shooting, including 3-of-5 from long range for both players.
"It doesn't matter if we're coming off the bench or starting or just playing a few minutes, every guy in that locker room knows they have to be ready when their time comes," Brandenberg said.
HAVOC was on display yet again with VCU forcing Northeastern in 25 turnovers, while racking up 14 steals. It was the seventh straight game that the Rams tallied double-digits in the steal column and extended their school record to 343 steals on the year.
"That's what we do, we want to make our opponent as uncomfortable as possible, make them do things they might not normally do," freshman Briante Weber, who had three steals on the night, said.
VCU used the energy of the sold-out crowd to run out to an early nine-point lead, 18-9, behind five early points from senior Bradford Burgess. However, foul trouble would slow down the Rams' offensive attack and the Huskies scraped their way back into the game thanks to 12 first-half points from Joel Smith.
Smith went 4-of-7 from the field in the first half and drilled a three with a hand in his face and just over a minute to play in the first stanza to send the teams into the break with the score tied at 26.
The halftime speech must have been a good one as VCU came out on fire, putting together a 10-2 run that gave the Rams a 36-28 cushion.
Five three-pointers in just over five minutes turned an eight-point lead into a 20-point advantage after Graham drilled his third trey of the game from the corner and gave VCU a 63-43 lead with just under eight minutes to play.
Like they have throughout the 14-game head-to-head series with the Rams, Northeastern wouldn't go away, getting within eight, but clutch play by Brandenberg and freshman Teddy Okereafor helped the Black & Gold seal a date in the CAA semifinals.
"Teddy's play didn't really surprise me tonight because he had his best week of practice leading up to today," Coach Smart said. "He's really made some good strides over the course of the year and has a bright future ahead of him."
The Rams now await the winner of third-seeded George Mason and sixth-seeded Georgia State. The CAA semifinal match-up will tip off at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday on The Comcast Network.