NORTHEASTERN NOTABLES

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VCU lived a little dangerously, but the Rams held on for a 73-64 win. The Black and Gold have now won 19 straight home games.

The Rams led by as many as 13 points, but the Huskies caught fire in the second half and closed to within two before VCU was able to secure some breathing room.

The 2009-10 season was marked by a number of games in which the Rams failed to hold early leads down the stretch, but in 2010-11, VCU appears more prepared to weather runs by the opposition. Other than a well-publicized collapse at UAB, the Rams are 11-1 when leading at the half this season. VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart believes this year’s team has matured to the point where it’s able to bend, but not break.

“I think this year’s team has shown a higher level of resolve,” Smart said. “When the other team goes on a run, you’ve got to grit your teeth, and I think these guys have been able to do that this year.”

Senior Ed Nixon scored 10 points Saturday, including a clutch 3-pointer with 2:45 left that provided the Rams with a 65-59 cushion. He agrees that last season’s experience has been the best teacher.

“I think it’s just us learning from last year. Last year, we had a lot of games where we’d be up early and at halftime it’d be like, 12 and the other team would make a run and we didn’t know how to respond to that and we ended up losing those games,” Nixon said. “But now, we’re more mature and things are going better.”

GRAB BAG

  • Bradford Burgess scored 18 points in the first half and tied a season-high with 26 in the game. It’s his fourth 20-point effort of the season. Burgess also established a new career-high with five steals.
  • Regarding steals, Northeastern hadn’t given up more than nine in a game this year. VCU ripped 12 on Saturday.
  • Joey Rodriguez had three steals, all in the second half, and moved past Edmund Sherod and into second place on VCU’s career list with 205. Rolando Lamb is the all-time leader in that category with 257.
  • Rodriguez also moved past Chris Brower and into third on the Rams’ career 3-pointers list with 176.

ONE MORE THING…

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Don’t forget about this…

HOME WRECKERS

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For two-and-a-half years, VCU has clipped along at the Siegel Center largely unabated. The Rams have piled up 38 wins, including a school-record 18 last season. They upset 17th-ranked Oklahoma and fans stormed the floor. VCU also toppled arch-rival Old Dominion – twice. There was the nail-biter against James Madison that the Rams won in overtime and, there was the epic rout of Towson that featured 20 VCU 3-pointers.

It’s been a fun ride, but along the way, one team has eluded the Rams’ grasp, the Northeastern Huskies. Coached by Bill Coen, Northeastern has beaten VCU at the Siegel Center each of the last two seasons, the Rams’ only losses at the arena in 40 games.

A refresher course:

THE KARL HESS GAME
Northeastern 68, VCU 63 (Jan. 27, 2009)Box Score
In front of a weekday crowd of more than 6,800 and a national TV audience via ESPNU, Northeastern and VCU battled for sole possession of first place in the CAA. The game would also later feed into VCU fans’ superstition that the Rams’ gold uniforms were somehow cursed.

The Rams, led by senior Eric Maynor, were riding a seven-game win streak, but it was obvious in the early going that Maynor didn’t have his good legs. While Maynor struggled to get going, the Huskies took advantage, racing to a 30-13 lead in the game’s first 15 minutes.

But the Rams wouldn’t go quietly. Sophomore Brandon Rozzell scored eight points and Maynor buried a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left in the half during a 17-4 VCU run that cut the margin to 34-30 at intermission.

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THAT’S THE TICKET

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The other day I compiled this list of CAA attendance figures from the last five seasons. I’m not sure how much you want to extrapolate from this, but I did think it painted a pretty clear picture between and haves and the have-nots in the league. Basically, the Virginia teams, minus William & Mary, draw relatively well. You can also add UNC Wilmington, which saw attendance nosedive during the Benny Moss era, but has a fanbase that has shown that it will support the team when performance merits.

As their play continues to improve this year, I would expect both James Madison and UNC Wilmington to experience an uptick in attendance over the second half of the season.

The question is, who would you rather be? Drexel, which only has a 2,500-seat building, but often fills it, or William & Mary, which can seat 10k, but rarely approaches that number at Kaplan Arena? Over the last five years, the Tribe is filling Kaplan to just 28 percent of capacity.

* – All of this data was compiled from CAASports.com.

HOW BLAKE GRIFFIN COST ME 25 BUCKS

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  • Brandenberg leads VCU past William & Mary, 70-52 (Richmond Times-Dispatch).
  • VCU’s Rozzell out with broken hand (Richmond Times-Dispatch).
  • Is January 13 Too Early… (CAAHoops.com). Mike Litos recaps last night’s CAA action.
  • Video: VCU at William & Mary (VCURamNation.com).
  • Billy Donovan’s Secret Sorrow (ThePostgame.com). The title of this is a little misleading. Actually, the story details the sorrow of Donovan, Anthony Grant and John Pelphrey, who all worked together at Florida and endured a similar personal tragedy. It’s a great read.
    Side note: The author of this story, Jason King, actually pitched this two years ago while Anthony was still here. AG agreed, but only under the condition that Donovan and Pelphrey were on board as well. However, when Grant talked with Donovan, the Florida coach was either not on board yet or hadn’t been approached. Either way, I’m glad the story finally saw the light of day, because it is touching.

OTHER STUFF

GO CLIPPERS! HUH?
So, let this be a lesson to all you kids. Blind Facebook rage might cause you to make questionable wardrobe decisions. Stay with me here.

Those of you that know me understand that I’m from Ohio and a lifelong Cleveland Cavaliers’ fan. The whole LeBron-thingy this summer is still a sore spot. After the Cavs lost by 55 to the Lakers the other night and some presumed taunting by James, I posted this (about my third post on the subject, but whatever):

No big deal. Just me raging. The Heat were 30-9 before the game and the Clippers, well, the Clippers are the worst franchise in professional sports. The chances of me actually having to pony up for a Clips’ tee were so incredible small…
DOH! Ah well. Fine. You know what, I’m happy about it. I’m going to rock the heck out of that shirt. DISCLAIMER: This doesn’t mean I’m jumping ship on the Cavs. They’re still my team and that’s never going to change, 8-30 or 38-0. It’ll just be a funny t-shirt. Here’s what I went with. Ships in 3-10 days. Woot.

BIG ROB, BILL & THE LADY AND HANG TIME WITH DARIUS THEUS

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Much was written about Rob Brandenberg’s 22-point scoring outburst last night, including by me. Deservedly so, as Brandenberg scored the most points by a VCU freshman in more than 10 years and gave the Rams, stung by the loss of Brandon Rozzell, a much-needed boost. But I need to talk a little bit about Darius “Don’t Call Me Reggie” Theus. I would be remiss if I overlooked his performance.

Theus was nearly flawless directing the offense. The sophomore point guard handed out six assists, ripped five steals and blocked two shots on defense. He also scored seven points. In addition to playing solid defense, Theus’ quickness gives him the ability to drive and penetrate perhaps better than any other Ram. That action last night opened up shooters and created opportunities for everyone. Theus also isn’t afraid of contact, as evidenced by his 21 free throw attempts the last four games. Theus will have to improve that shooting percentage, however. The sophomore was 1-of-6 from the field last night and is just 2-of-20 in the last four games.

NUMBERS GAME
I’ve already had several people ask, and I wondered myself, what is the VCU freshman record for points in a game? It’s not a record that had been kept previously, but Scott Day and I did our best to track it down this morning. We now believe the record to be Kendrick Warren’s 29 points against George Mason on Jan. 2, 1991, an 80-74 VCU victory at the Coliseum. If you believe differently, feel free to shoot me an e-mail: ckowalczyk@vcu.edu. What we do know is that Brandenberg’s 22 points were the most by a VCU freshman since Dom Jones dropped 23 on SMU in 2000.

RANDOM NOTES

  • You want defense? You got it. In the last three games, all VCU victories, Ram opponents are averaging just 54.7 points per game.
  • The Rams outrebounded the Tribe last night, 29-26. It’s the first time this year VCU has outrebounded the opposition in back-to-back games. The Rams are 4-1 this season when they win the rebounding battle.
  • VCU was 11-of-27 from 3-point range last night. The Rams are 8-1 this year when making 10 or more treys.
  • Troy Daniels knocked down 2-of-3 3-pointers last night. Of his 34 field goal attempts this year, 31 have been from behind the arc (91 percent). For his career, 72 of Daniels’ 83 field goal attempts have been 3-pointers (83 percent).
  • VCU is 62-of-77 from the free throw line in its last four games (.805).

ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF…

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WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – On Wednesday afternoon, VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart was wondering who would fill Brandon Rozzell’s shoes. By the time 9:00 p.m. rolled around, he looked like a man who might’ve found an answer.

Freshman Rob Brandenberg scored a career-high 22 points Wednesday night, 19 of them in the second half, to lead the Rams to a convincing, 70-52 road victory over William & Mary.

“He’s pretty good,” Tribe Head Coach Tony Shaver said modestly after the game. “That a sign of a good basketball team.”

Rozzell, VCU’s sixth man and third-leading scorer, broke his shooting hand during Tuesday’s practice when he collided with a teammate. Smart said he told his players before Wednesday’s game that they’d have to step up to fill the void. Apparently, Brandenberg heard the message loud and clear.

Displaying impressive athleticism and a repertoire of long-range shots, drives and pull-up jumpers, Brandenberg helped the Rams stave off comeback-minded William & Mary (4-12, 0-5 CAA). READ MORE…

ROZZELL HAS BROKEN HAND, OUT 2-4 WEEKS

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WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – VCU senior shooting guard Brandon  Rozzell will miss 2-4 weeks after breaking his right (shooting) hand during practice Tuesday. The injury occurred when Rozzell’s hand collided with freshman Reco McCarter’s knee.

Rozzell, the Rams’ third-leading scorer, is averaging 13.3 points and leads the team with 44 3-pointers. He is scheduled to have surgery to place two pins in the hand on Thursday.

WEDNESDAY, ADDAMS

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First and foremost, let’s plug tonight’s LIVE BLOG. Drop by to catch up on all the action from tonight’s VCU-William & Mary contest, as well as what I ate for dinner and my thoughts on the plight of the duck-billed platypus.

Secondmost, um, if that’s a word. On Facebook yesterday, I posted the trivia question: Which Ram owns the highest scoring performance against William & Mary in VCU history?

ANSWER: Nick George, who dropped a career-high 36 points on the Tribe on Feb. 23, 2005 in a 91-69 rout at the Siegel Center. Another interesting note. VCU recorded 29 assists that night. That’s a ton. Nobody got the right answer, so you guys win nothing. Thanks for playing. Better luck next time.

THE LINKS

20/20 VISION?

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I asked this question during the last in-game blog, in part because I hadn’t figured out how to do it here. Well, no more sir! So, the question is pretty straightforward. Who is your favorite player to wear No. 20 in VCU Men’s Basketball history? I realize that Burgess is still playing, so he still has time to win your hearts.

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