Rams beat GW, reach second straight A-10 final

Photo by Audry Dubon.

Colin Kennedy
Sports Editor

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — After losing its third leading scorer early in the first half, the VCU men’s basketball team beat George Washington University 74-55 on Saturday to advance to the Atlantic 10 tournament championship.

Sophomore guard Melvin Johnson suffered a knee injury early in the first half, but the Rams used a 41-point second half to pull away from the Colonials, who turned the ball over 15 times in the game.

Junior Treveon Graham led all scorers with 22 points, while junior Briante Weber notched 16 points, eight assists, six rebounds and two steals in the winning effort.

After the game, head coach Shaka Smart said he was proud his team managed to pull out a tough victory despite losing their third-leading scorer.

“That was a grind of a game,” Smart said. “When Mel (Johnson) went down that was a hit to our team, to our guys, to our coaching staff because he’s one of the guys that everyone on our team absolutely adores, including the coaches. And secondly, he’s a very, very good player.”

GW’s 1-3-1 zone gave the Rams problems early on as VCU struggled to convert its perimeter opportunities, however, senior Rob Brandenberg helped spark a rally with a buzzer-beating three at the end of the first half. He made three of six three-point attempts and Smart’s team connected on 10-23 (43.5 percent) three-point shots for the game.

Weber found success attacking the zone after halftime and frequently found Graham, who shot 4-6 from three-point range and 8-12 overall.

Senior Juvonte Reddic finished with just four points, but grabbed 10 rebounds, including five offensive boards on the night. VCU out-rebounded GW 11-7 on the offensive glass and 37-28 overall.

Graham said redshirt freshman Mo Alie-Cox was key in setting the tone on the boards.

“He’s been playing great lately,” Graham said. “He defends the basket well. For him to be 6-foot-6 and be able to block shots like that is amazing. Rebounding wise, he’s a monster on the boards when he wants to be. When he brings the type of aggressiveness he brought today, he’s really effective on the court.”

Cox finished with eight points, seven rebounds and two blocks, while nine different VCU players scored in the game. Redshirt freshman Jordan Burgess contributed seven points and four steals off the bench in the 19-point victory.

VCU will face Saint Joseph’s University in the finals on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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