Rams bounce back in win vs. Wofford

Jim Swing
Assistant Sports Editor
Commonwealth Times Sports’ Twitter

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Senior guard Brandon Rozzell knows that great teams bounce back.

After suffering a disappointing loss at UAB just over a week ago, the VCU men’s basketball team proved they could do just that with a 75-66 victory over Southern Conference power Wofford in the first-ever Richmond Marriott Holiday on the Hardwood Classic.

“I think all of us are on the same page, we know what kind of team we are, a good team,” Rozzell said. “That was a tough loss but great teams bounce back and we just sucked it up and thought about the next game which was Wofford, we couldn’t be stuck on UAB coming into this game.”

Rozzell along with fellow Richmond native Bradford Burgess led the Rams, combining for 31 points on the night.

Burgess would provide energy to begin the first half for VCU, scoring the team’s first six points of the game. He would assume the role of “big-man” in the first half, continuing to find his way to the basket underneath, converting a layup to give the VCU a 18-10 lead just under 10 minutes in.

“I told Brad before the UAB game that we have got to get him 12 or more shots every game. I told him ‘I need you to be aggressive’ and he did a great job having as good as a game as he’s ever had,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “Then before this game I said ‘Bradford [Burgess] we need you again, we need you to attack.”

The Rams would find foul trouble midway through the first half, committing four personal fouls over a span of two minutes that allowed Wofford to come as close as within five points of the VCU lead.

Just minutes later, freshmen guard Rob Brandenberg would find chemistry with fellow classmate– and forward– Juvonte Reddic on an underneath pass for a layup to put the Rams up 29-22 with just under two minutes remaining in the first half.

With just under a minute remaining in the first half, Reddic was found in good position underneath once again, this time on a stellar pass from senior guard Joey Rodriguez to give VCU a nine point separation and its largest lead of the night.

The Rams lead would whither heading into the break however, as Wofford managed to cut the VCU lead to six on an emphatic two-handed put-back slam by Tim Johnson and a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Jamar Diggs.

The Terriers would carry their momentum through halftime and into the second half as they jumped out to a 15-8 run highlighted by two 3-point field goals from sharp-shooter Brad Loesing to give Wofford a 42-41 lead just with just under 14 minutes left in the second half.

Leading scorer Jamie Skeen would post his first points of the night eight minutes into the second half on a rare desperation 3-pointer that beat the shot clock to give VCU a 48-45 lead.

While Skeen may be somewhat of a stranger to the 3-point shot, his teammates said it is a part of the game he shows emphasis on.

“He’s a really good 3-point shooter, he just doesn’t like shooting them in game,” Rodriguez said. “He works on stuff like that, like after practice he will stay around and shoot shots like that so I guess when you do that things like that happen.”

With just over four minutes remaining in the game Noah Dahlman converted a layup for Wofford to tie the game at 64. Just 14 seconds later, a Rozzell 3-pointer followed by a tough one-handed runner by Rodriguez would put the Rams up for good, giving them their 16th straight win at home.

“I am really proud of the way our guys finished the game. That’s been a big point of emphasis for us in practice since we got back,” Smart said. “That tonight was a big-time win for our program because we’re talking about a team in Wofford that last year won 26 games, has everyone back, and I would not be surprised if they win that many games again and repeat as Southern Champions and go to the NCAA Tournament.”

With Wednesday night’s win, VCU moves on to face fellow first round victors New Hampshire with less than 24 hours of preparation.

“The games to me and the players are such a great opportunity to challenge yourself against another team,” Smart said. “They have a very physical team and they come at you with a lot of aggressiveness so we’re really going to have to put our best foot forward in terms of physicality tomorrow to match what they bring.”

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