Perfection is difficult to duplicate. Just three days after its 112-53 win over Towson, the VCU men’s basketball team had to get set to regroup and get back on the court Saturday night against Georgia State.
Despite snow on the ground and a very physical opponent, the Rams put aside the memories of their best game of the season and beat their visitors from Atlanta, 78-62.
“It was not our best effort of the year,” VCU coach Shaka smart said. “The Towson game was as perfect as they’ll probably come this year. But for the most part our guys played well.”
A dedicated crowd of 4,548 fought through the snow and made it to the arena to watch their team storm to a 13-point lead by halftime. After starting 3-10 from the floor and 0-5 from three, VCU had to look elsewhere to compete. Thanks to their inside game, mainly Larry Sanders (Fort Pierce, Fla./Port St. Lucie) and the defense, the Rams were able to stay with Georgia State early.
“I thought that after the first three or four minutes of the game we did a better job of that,” Smart said. “Larry did a nice job of establishing himself around the basket, forcing a lot of fouls,”
Thanks to the cold shooting of VCU, Georgia State was able to get and keep the lead. Trailing 18-14, the Rams began to get some things go their way. The VCU press began to force turnovers, which VCU turned into points.
“We just grinded it out,” said freshman Darius Theus (Portsmouth/Norcom). “We started communicating better and doing the little things to get the lead back.”
Theus was the jolt of energy the Rams needed so badly as he came off the bench to score 10 in the first half. But more importantly, he and Rodriguez choked the life out of Georgia State forcing turnovers and scoring easy baskets.
The Rams were outscored 16-12 through the first 10 minutes, however thanks to this defense they would outscore GSU 33-16 in the closing ten minutes.
The Rams started cold in the first half and finished the half strong, the second half would go the exact same way. VCU started the second half shooting 2-8 through the first 8:30 and were out scored 12-5. The woeful shooting continued through the six minute mark as Georgia State cut the once 13 point lead to three.
With 15 turnovers in the second half, VCU was undoubtedly struggling and needed a lift to push them to a win. Up 54-51, the Rams kicked into gear again much like they did in the first half. Instead of Theus and Sanders, this time it would be Ed Nixon (St. Petersburg, Fla./Lakewood) and Joey Rodriguez (Olviedo, Fla./Lake Howell). The two combined for 16 of the team’s final 22 points and the highlight of the evening came at the 1:49 mark as Nixon hit a tough three with the shot clock expiring.
The shot effectively put the Panthers away, putting VCU up 10. Thanks to free throws and a Nixon exclamation point dunk with 55 seconds remaining, the Rams were able to beat GSU 78-62.
The Rams put five players in double figures for the second consecutive game. Sanders charted his seventh double-double of the season with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Rodriguez set his season high with 22 points and he also tallied nine assists. Brandon Rozzell (Richmond/Highland Springs) scored 12. Theus and Nixon each scored 10. To lead Georgia State (9-14,3-8), Joe Dukes scored 17. Xavier Hansbro and James Fields each added 10.
With the win, VCU has now won six of its last seven games to move to 15-5 on the season. Now 7-4 in the CAA, the Rams look to games at UNCW on Wednesday and at home against arch-rival ODU to continue to improve their CAA standing.
By the numbers
Georgia State (9-14, 3-8)
Hampton 2, Dukes 17, Johnson 4, Goldston 3, Hansbro 10, Fields 10, Curry 0, Ali 8, Vincent 6, Krubally 2, Lott 0.
Totals: 24 10-17 62
3-pointers: Goldston 1, Fields 1, Ali 2 (team 4-11)
VCU (15-5, 7-4)
Sanders 13, Rodriguez 22, Burgess 5, Skeen 0, Rozzell 12, Saintil 4, Theus 10, Pishchalnikov 2, Daniels 0, Gwynn 0, Nixon 10.
Totals: 22 30-35 62
3-pointers: Rozzell 2, Theus 1, Nixon 1 (Team: 4-13)