Rams coming of age as winning streak elongates to eight

Jim Swing
Sports Editor
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Junior sharpshooter Troy Daniels had 16 points off off of 6-11 shooting from the field Wednesday night.

WILLIAMSBURG — Shaka Smart sat in the middle, Rob Brandenberg to his left, and Troy Daniels and Juvonte Reddic hung off to his right. The third-year head coach of VCU was surrounded by a group of guys that, if you asked about them at the beginning of last year, would only be a question mark.

The Rams leading scorer and lone senior, Bradford Burgess, had just finished another poor shooting performance against William & Mary, and Smart sat at the post-game press conference sandwiched between two sophomores and a junior that, before this season, hadn’t really proved themselves.

But that’s just the way the days have been recently at VCU, where scoring could seemingly come from just about anybody at any moment. And Wednesday night at William & Mary was no different. The Rams (19-5, 10-2) had four players score in double-digits to boost a vastly diverse offense in a 87-78 win over the Tribe (4-20, 2-10).

“We have a lot of different guys that score,” Smart said. “Our (usual) leading scorer was not in double-digits so that shows a lot of our depth.”

Depth has been the key for a young VCU team without a dominant leading scorer currently. Brandenberg and Treveon Graham combined for 30 of the Rams’ 36 points off the bench. Brandenberg, who had missed 51 of his last 72 shots from the floor coming into Wednesday night’s game, was undoubtedly one of the main culprits in VCU’s treacherous shooting month of January. The sophomore guard shot 5-of-11 from the floor for 17 points at the Kaplan Arena, where he put up 22 just over a year ago.

“We’re all good scorers, and it’s just a confidence thing,” Brandenberg said. “Just stepping in every shot and believing you’re going to make it.”

The Rams shot 53 percent – their second best of the season – in a game where both team’s defenses seemed to take a night off. VCU has now shot above 40 percent in its last four games.

“To make shots you have to take them,” said junior guard Troy Daniels, who went 6-of-11 for 16 points. “And we’ve just got to step up and take them and make them.”

But perhaps VCU’s largest output came from the 6-foot-9-inch, 235-pound Reddic who served as the team’s backbone with 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting. The sophomore forward punished William & Mary with a career-high 28 points less than two weeks ago, and Wednesday night wasn’t much different.

“I think the last game playing against them boosted my confidence,” Reddic said, “and helped me play pretty good.”

VCU are now winners of eight straight heading into the meat of the conference season. Scoring is flowing in from all different angles, and the Rams are starting to roll. When asked if his team is ahead of schedule, Smart answered with a little bit of coach-speak.

“No, ’cause there is no schedule, we want to win every game,” he said. “If you told me we were going to be 19-5 at this point in the year and said, ‘Would you take that?’ I’m unrealistic; I want to win them all.”

Photo by: Chris Conway

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