February 9, 2012

VCU USES STRONG SECOND HALF IN 76-60 WIN OVER SECOND PLACE HOFSTRA

RICHMOND, Va. – Seniors Andrea Barbour and Courtney Hurt combined for 46 points and VCU kept the nation's 11th-best scoring offense at bay, while using a strong second half in a 76-60 victory over second place Hofstra Thursday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena.

The Pride (16-7, 8-4 CAA), which entered the game averaging 76.5 points per game, cut the deficit to one on a pair of free throws by Candice Bellocchio with 8:27 to go, but VCU erupted for an 18-2 run spanning seven minutes and never looked back.

VCU (14-9, 7-5 CAA), which handed Hofstra back-to-back conference losses for the first time all season, has won five straight and nine of the last 10 against the Pride.  The Rams picked up their seventh win in their last eight home games.

"I'm just really proud of our kids," said VCU Head Coach Beth Cunningham.  "It was such a well-deserved win because they fought so hard and put together such an outstanding defensive effort.  We did a great job on the boards, and to face such a high powered offense like Hofstra has been night in and night out… to hold them to 60 points and dominate the boards is a tremendous effort.  It was a big win at home and I can't say enough about what our kids did tonight."

Barbour (pictured, left) scored 21 of her game-high 26 points in the second half to go along with four assists, two blocks and three steals, while Hurt contributed her 14th double-double of the season with 20 points and 15 rebounds.  Senior Chelsea Snyder chipped in seven points, eight boards and a career-high five blocks.  Her five rejections were the most a VCU player has recorded since Quanitra Hollingsworth's five on Feb. 14, 2008.

"I thought we had some great senior leadership tonight and that's something that we certainly needed," Cunningham said.  "Chelsea was tremendous defensively on Shante Evans," who finished with just 13 points on 6 of 23 shooting.  "[Evans] is one of the top players, not only in our conference but in the entire country… and Chelsea and [freshman Aprill McRae] did a great job defensively against her tonight."

A layup by McRae put VCU on top 9-7 at the 13:05 mark before a 3-pointer from freshman Christina Carter gave the Rams a 12-9 edge less than two minutes later.  However, Hofstra responded with a 10-2 run, capped off by a traditional 3-point play by Evans, to take its largest lead of the game at 19-14 with 6:55 to go. 

Trailing 22-17 with 5:35 showing, Hurt scored five straight to spark a 7-0 VCU run and the Rams raced back to regain the lead on a fast break layup from junior Robyn Hobson, who finished with seven points and six rebounds, with 2:34 remaining.  But the Pride again responded with a pair of free throws on its next possession and went on to score six of the final seven points of the half to take a 28-25 advantage into the locker room.

VCU came out of the break on fire, hitting six of its first seven from the field, and opened the second half on a 12-5 run to take its largest lead of the game.  Snyder scored half of the Rams points during the stretch, including a feed from Hurt with 17:03 to go, which put VCU up 37-33.

"We got off to a tremendous start to the second half," said Cunningham.  "It really fueled our fire and built some confidence.  Our kids stepped up at the right time."

The Black & Gold eventually pushed its lead to 43-38 on a jumper by Hurt with 14:19 showing but Hofstra again chipped away and eventually regained the lead on a free throw from Anma Onyeuku at the 11:55 mark.

The lead would change hands three times in the next 1:30 before Barbour put VCU back on top for good with a jumper with 10:39 left.

The score remained close until VCU, which scored 51 points in the second half, erupted for an 18-2 run spanning seven minutes.  After Evans pulled Hofstra within 63-56 on a layup with 5:32 remaining, seniors Jennifer Lane and Barbour nailed back-to-back triples before a pair of fast break layups from Hurt (pictured, right) and Hobson quickly gave the Rams a 17-point advantage with 1:50 to play.

"I think there were some little things in the first half that kept us from having the lead going into halftime," said Cunningham.  "Almost every single one of these games comes down to a stretch where you've got to make a run and finish on top.  This is a really big step forward for our team."

VCU continues its three-game home stand on Sunday, Feb. 12 against James Madison for its annual "Pink Out" in support of breast cancer awareness.  The first 100 fans will receive a free t-shirt courtesy of VCU's Massey Cancer Center.  Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. at the Verizon Wireless Arena.

 

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