VCU retires Bradford Burgess jersey; Rams defeat U.Mass.

Sterling Giles
Contributing Writer

Bradford Burgess alongside his family greets his former head coach Shaka Smart during his retirement ceremony at the Stuart C. Siegel Center on Saturday, Feb. 21. Above: JeQuan Lewis, Melvin Johnson, Jarred Guest and Jordan Burgess celebrate their win over SLU. Photo by Pilar Curtis

VCU men’s basketball remained atop the Atlantic 10 on a day that Bradford Burgess’, the older brother of redshirt sophomore guard Jordan Burgess, jersey was retired, with a win against the University of Massachusetts 78-72 on Saturday, Feb. 21.

Burgess was honored prior to the tilt against U.Mass. The former VCU guard played from 2008 through 2012 and was also a member of the 2011 Final Four team. Burgess’s No. 20 jersey was hung among elite company in the rafters. He is one of five players to have his jersey retired, joining the likes of Eric Maynor and Calvin Duncan.

Burgess posted 1684 points in his career, placing him fifth all-time in program history. He is also one of three players in VCU history-joining Warren and Charles Wilkins-to post over 1600 points, 700 rebounds, and 200 assists. He also became the first player in 25 years to appear in three NCAA tournaments for VCU.

Head coach Shaka Smart spoke about how thankful and impressed he was with Burgess’s accomplishments during his collegiate career.

“When (I) saw his name and number up there among the VCU greats, I got kind of emotional because that’s about as good of an accomplishment you can have,” Smart said. “I just appreciate I got to coach him for three years.”

Coined the “Big Shot” for his for his clutch go-ahead baskets throughout his career, one of Burgess’ notable big shots was a game-winning layup in overtime against Florida State University in the 2011 NCAA Southwest Regional Final.

With Burgess on hand, the Rams had an opportunity to grab the top spot in the A-10 conference with a win.  VCU entered the contest tied for first place with the University of Dayton with a 10-3 record. U.Mass. occupied the second spot with a record of 9-4.

VCU forced 16 turnovers and eight steals in just the first half. With just under seven minutes in the half, the Rams led by 16 points. Still, the Minutemen concluded the half shooting 45 percent from the field and only trailed the Rams, 35-30. Senior forward Treveon Graham led all scorers with 14 points. Graham finished the game with a double-double, scoring 24 points and 10 rebounds.

After halftime, the Rams came out strong, hitting four of its first five shots, which were all from long distance. However, the Rams went cold and went on a scoring drought for more than four minutes. U.Mass. then went on a 12-0 run and even gained the lead at one point during the drought.

But once again, the resilience of Smart’s team was apparent as the team went on another run to close out the game. The Minutemen did not the forfeit the win easily as U.Mass. guard Trey Davis hit a clutch three-pointer with 42 seconds left in regulation. VCU clinched the victory when junior guard Melvin Johnson and sophomore guard JeQuan Lewis made crucial free-throws to ice the game.

Despite all of the fanfare for his brother prior to the game, Burgess played well, finishing with five points and eight rebounds.

With a VCU win and a loss by second place Dayton University, the Rams move into sole possession of first place in the A-10 with an 11-3 record in conference and 21-6 overall.

Next on the schedule for the Rams is the highly-anticipated rematch with the University of Richmond Spiders, who defeated VCU at home last month. The contest will take place at UR on Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. and will broadcast live on ESPN2 and ESPNU.

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