RICHMOND, Va. – In a few days, we’ll close the book on 2012 and turn the page to a new year with new hopes, new goals and new dreams. But they might have to drag Troy Daniels into 2013 kicking and screaming.
Daniels capped his torrid December by stroking a school-record nine 3-pointers and scoring a career-high 27 points in Saturday’s 96-67 win over Fairleigh Dickinson. After a pedestrian 4-of-10 start from beyond the arc, Daniels kicked into high gear, hitting five of his last six, including four straight in the final three minutes, to break Bo Jones’ 13-year-old VCU single-game mark. Daniels originally tied the record with eight triples Dec. 7 at Old Dominion.
This month has been, by far, the best of Daniels’ career. In his last five games, Daniels has averaged 19.9 points and shot .500 (30-of-60) from 3-point range. Daniels has scored at least 24 points in three of those contests.
It hasn’t been so much the flipping of a switch that has turned Daniels into a “must-watch” shooter the last five games as it has been the result of a cumulative effort. It’s been hours at Franklin Street Gym late at night with Assistant Coach Jeremy Ballard, loads of film study, and pep talks with Coach Shaka Smart. Sooner or later, the dam was going to break and allow the river that is Daniels’ sweet shooting stroke to flow freely. It appears we’ve reached that point.
“I’m happy for Troy,” Smart said Saturday. “He’s a guy that’s put a lot of extra work in, a lot of extra hours where it was just him and a manager in the gym and it’s paying off for him.”
It’s paying off at an unprecedented rate, that is. Daniels is now shooting .427 (50-of-116) from beyond the arc, the best of his four-year career, and is sinking an average of 3.8 three-pointers per game. Last season, when he set a school record with 94 treys, he averaged 2.6 per game, the same as B.A. Walker did when he buried 92 for the Rams in 2006-07. While it’s not the 4.3 threes per game that national leader Ryan Sypkens of UC Davis has averaged this year, it’s in the neighborhood.
Smart says Ballard and Daniels watch video of every one of his shots to identify mechanical flaws. Of all the aspects of Daniels’ form they pore over, his follow-through has been one of the most critical to his recent success.
“If you watch Troy shoot and he stays with his follow-through, he shoots a very high percentage. When he falls out of his shot he shoots a much low percentage,” Smart said. “He can still make it some that way. That’s the problem sometime when a guy is such a good shooter. He can make it shooting it the wrong way sometimes. Over the course of a game or several games, you’re going to make a much higher percentage if you shoot it the right way.”
While Daniels is happy to etch his name in the VCU record book, he’s says playing for bigger prizes.
“[I won’t think about it] much right now,” he said. “Probably at the end of the season I’ll look back and talk to my teammates about it. They probably love it. Right now I play to win. I don’t play to break records.”
It’s good that Daniels feels that way. There are plenty of games left to win coming up in 2013.
RAMS MARCH ON
At times, VCU looked dominant Saturday, others, the Rams played like a team coming off an eight-day break. In the end, it was still a 29-point blowout victory, one in which the Rams forced a staggering 34 turnovers.
It was the most turnovers forced by a VCU team since 1995 and the seventh-most in school history. VCU outscored Fairleigh Dickinson 40-11 off turnovers. Although the Rams played a choppy game in many areas, the full-court press was a meat grinder again for the opposition. In its last three games, VCU has forced 32, 27 and 34 turnovers, respectively.
“I thought our guys played with great energy,” Smart said. “I think we need to play with more discipline. I thought the eight-day break might’ve hurt us there in terms of being rusty when it comes to playing with discipline. But we’ll get better at that. It’s a fine line between getting after people and defending without fouling.”
It wasn’t all good for the Rams. The Knights shot 50 percent (24-of-48) from the floor and Kinu Rochford torched VCU to the tune of 30 points and 16 rebounds. The Rams also turned the ball over 15 times. But VCU’s relentless pressure mitigated any rust the Rams carried through the Christmas break.
The victory was the Rams’ seventh straight, all by double figures. During their seven-game winning streak, the Rams have scored at least 90 points three times and have won by 25 or more points on four occasions. Although Fairleigh Dickinson isn’t Duke, VCU continued its recent trend of getting out in front of teams early and then keeping the accelerator pressed to the floorboards.
Bigger tests await VCU in 2013, but the Rams have taken care of business and beaten the teams they’re supposed to beat – soundly.
VCU’s game marked the 26th straight sellout at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center… Juvonte Reddic hit his first career 3-pointer and finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Rams. It was his third double-double of the season… Darius Theus finished with five steals for the third straight game… VCU attempted 85 field goals Saturday, compared to just 48 for FDU… Troy Daniels passed Jamal Shuler and Chris Brower to move into sixth place on VCU’s career 3-pointers list with 177. B.A. Walker holds the Rams’ career record with 269 treys.