VCU zips past Akron

Zachary Holden
Staff Writer

VCU players show their excitement following a big play. (Photo by Chris Conway)
VCU players show their excitement following a big play.
(Photo by Chris Conway)

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. –The VCU men’s basketball team could not have imagined a better way to start their 2013 NCAA Tournament. Late Thursday night, the Rams took down the depleted Akron Zips 88-42 at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

“Our guys did a great job tonight executing the plan,” Shaka Smart said. “This was just a better matchup for us tonight, and that’s why we were able to win.”

It was Akron who got on the board first after a pair of Carmelo Betancourt free throws. It didn’t take VCU long to respond with a Treveon Graham jumper to even the score. As the teams traded baskets over the next two minutes, it was finally capped off by a Juvonte Reddic dunk to tie the game at six a piece.

Then, havoc took over. The Rams, over the next eight minutes, would go on a 24-7 run and forced four Akron turnovers to push their lead to 17.

“Any time a team makes a run, it’s great,” Reddic said. “We did a good job forcing turnovers and playing good defense.”

The remainder of the first half turned out to be a back-and-forth scoring affair with VCU entering halftime leading Akron 50-25. Reddic converted his buzzer beating layup to lead all scorers with 16 points, while adding three rebounds. Troy Daniels, in true form, was 3-for-4 from range with 14 points and four rebounds.

“Troy, he made a lot of threes in the first half and that was due to our defense and them scrambling,” Rob Brandenberg said.

Daniels didn’t take long to keep his hot streak going. The senior drained a three-pointer in the corner just 14 seconds into the second half. With the Rams nearly up 30 point at this time, most teams would start to ease up.

Then again, most teams aren’t VCU.

Havoc continued to play out at full intensity as the Rams did not cease and desist like many teams would. Non-VCU fans began pouring out of The Palace with 15 minutes left, and would continue to slowly as the half progressed.

Shot-after-shot, it didn’t seem like VCU could miss against Akron. The Rams held the Zips to two points over a nine minute span midway through the half.

When the buzzer finally sounded, to the relief of Zips coach Keith Dambrot and all Akron fans, VCU had won in dominating fashion by 46, the largest margin of victory by a five seed over a 12 seed in NCAA Tournament history.

“I’m not going to enjoy this one at all,” Smart said. “This is what we wanted to do. We won, but we’re turning the page because that’s what we do this time of year.”

Daniels finished as the leading scorer with 23 points and five rebounds, while Reddic chipped in 21 points and six rebounds.

Demetrius Treadwell led Akron with 15 points and seven rebounds in a tough defensive matchup. Two Akron players, Pat Forsythe and Brian Walsh, were game-time decisions due to flu-like symptoms. They ended up playing, but couldn’t contribute much as they went 0-for-4 from the field.

“Those guys are winning guys, they want to try to give it a go. Walsh had a miserable night,” Dambrot said. “We didn’t handle the ball well enough to offset that.”

VCU takes on Michigan in one of the most anticipated matchups of the weekend on Saturday.

“It’s win or go home right now,” said Brandenberg. “We’ve got our work cut out on Saturday, but I’m confident…Coach Smart [is] going to have us ready to play.”

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