RICHMOND, Va. – Seniors Courtney Hurt and Andrea Barbour contributed a game-high 22 points apiece, and VCU rode a lopsided first half on its way to a 79-59 victory against Norfolk State Wednesday afternoon at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.
The Rams (7-3) raced out to a 28-point halftime lead and never looked back, picking up their fourth straight victory and seventh in their last nine games. VCU would go up by as many as 35 points in the second half but Norfolk State would get no closer than 20 the rest of the game.
"It's a nice way to head into the Christmas break, to get a win here before we head off," said VCU Head Coach Beth Cunningham. "I thought we had really good efforts from all of our kids today. Our defensive pressure caused Norfolk State some problems, especially in the first half. That intensity kept them from doing some things they wanted to do."
Hurt, who has posted 20 points in six of her last seven contests, registered game-highs with eight rebounds, four blocks and three steals. Barbour and junior Carleeda Green dished out a game-high four assists apiece.
Norfolk State (5-5) knotted the score at 9-9 on a jumper by Whitney Long at the 14-minute mark before VCU erupted, reeling off 17-straight points spanning five minutes and went up by 17 on a traditional 3-point play by McRae with 8:28 showing.
A triple from the left wing by Long on Norfolk State's next possession gave the Spartans their first field goal in more than six minutes and halted VCU's spurt. However, Barbour took a feed from Hurt (pictured) to make it 28-12 with 7:45 to go and the Rams continued their scoring spree, reeling off 20 of the final 26 points of the half. Barbour scored five in the final 30 seconds on a pair of fast break layups to give VCU a comfortable 46-18 advantage at the break.
The 28-point halftime lead was the largest for the Rams all season and was also the most first-half points VCU has posted thus far. The Black & Gold forced 14 turnovers in the opening stanza, while limiting Norfolk State to just 28-percent shooting (7 of 25).
Back-to-back 3-pointers from junior Robyn Hobson gave VCU a 60-27 lead with 14:22 remaining before Hurt scored four straight to give the Rams a 35-point advantage, their largest lead of the day, less than a minute later.
Trailing by 34 with 6:39 to go, Norfolk State climbed back, using a 13-0 spurt and pulled within 77-56 on a pair of free throws from Carlon Chambers with 3:02 left. The Spartans, who held VCU to just two points over the final 6:22 of the game, scored 16 of the final 18 points.
VCU won the rebounding battle for the sixth straight game, holding a 44-35 margin against Norfolk State. The Rams have outrebounded their last four opponents by more than 10 boards per game.
Long paced the Spartans with 19 points. Rachel Gordon added 12 and a team-best six rebounds.
VCU also posted a season-high attendance with the help of the Greater Richmond YMCA.
"I was really pleased with the fan support we had today," Cunningham said. "I'm really excited the kids from the YMCA got to come out and see us play. Our players really appreciate the support and it certainly helped them get fired up for an early afternoon tip."
VCU heads to Coral Gables, Fla., to participate in the annual University of Miami Holiday Classic Dec. 28-29. The Rams will face Morgan State on Dec. 28 at 5 p.m., before facing either Holy Cross or No. 7 Miami on Dec. 29.