VCU’s 71-54 win over Georgia State Wednesday night couldn’t have looked any more different than the Rams’ 76-66 loss to the Panthers Jan. 3 in Atlanta. Rob Brandenberg scored 16 of his 23 points in the first half and Jamie Skeen added 15 in the victory, VCU’s fifth straight and seventh in eight games.

Here were a few of the keys to victory:

  • Eric Buckner, who blasted the Rams with 28 points and nine rebounds in the first meeting, scored just six points and did not attempt a field goal. Said GSU Coach Rod Barnes, “They were very physical with him. They did a good job of boxing him out. Last time he was able to get some scores in transition, but we weren’t able to do that tonight because we turned it over.”
  • Speaking of turnovers, VCU forced a season-high 24, which led to 27 points.
  • VCU also kept the rebounding edge, which was plus 18 in favor of the Panthers in the first meeting, to just 38-32 in favor of Georgia State. Given that the Rams took 16 more shots than the Panthers, that’s pretty reasonable.
  • Dante Curry, who leads the CAA in 3-point field goals made (3.1) was just 2-of-10 from long range Wednesday.
  • Rob Brandenberg is really, really good.
  • Troy Daniels knocked down 3-of-7 3-pointers and scored 10 points.

QUOTES OF THE NIGHT

  • Jamie Skeen (on David Hinton’s dunk in the closing seconds): “I told David after the game, I told him, all the time he’s up in the weight room, he should’ve broke the rim off. That little soft dunk ain’t gonna cut it, man. He wakes up in the weight room, so he needs to break the rim off. I told him that next time, you’d better hang on the rim and get a technical foul or something.”
  • Georgia State Coach Rod Barnes (his opening statement in the presser): “We got our butts kicked. Questions?”

VEAL RETURNS
Toby Veal made his first appearance since Dec. 18 following knee surgery and played nine minutes. He finished with two rebounds, two steals, a blocked shot and an assist.

“Defensively, I thought he brought a lot of energy,” VCU Coach Shaka Smart said. “He’s not 100 percent yet, but they did clear him to play. He’s still working his way back. I thought he played with great energy defensively, he helped us. He also brings a level of physicality to us. When guys try to push us around, Toby’s able to stand up to them.”

Veal went though a light workout on Monday and then was able to complete an entire practice on Tuesday, which was enough for Smart to give his seal of approval for Wednesday night’s game.

THEY CALL HIM DENNY’S, BECAUSE HE’S ALWAYS OPEN
Daniels’ 10 points were his most since he scored 12 against VMI on Dec. 8. In fact, those 10 points are one more than he scored in the 10 games since that contest – combined. Daniels hit 3-of-7 3-pointers and started to find that deadly long-range stroke that led Smart to offer him a scholarship in the first place. The sophomore guard is now 11-of-39 from 3-point range (.282) this season.

“You should see Troy in practice. He’s so good,” Smart said. “It’s just, sometimes a player has to make the transition from being a good player in practice, to being a good player in a in maybe a scrimmage or an exhibition game to being a good player when it really matters, when the game is on the line or in a big game. I think as everyone in here knows, that transformation isn’t all the way complete for Troy, but if you see him everyday in practice, you’re begging for that day to come when he does play with great confidence.”

OTHER RAM-BLINGS

  • Brandenberg’s 23 points matched Dom Jones’ effort as a freshman in 2000 in a game against SMU. The VCU freshman scoring record is 29 points, set by Kendrick Warren. Maybe Brandenberg is channeling his inner Jones. I mean, the former VCU great was spotted in the Stu recently.
  • VCU has won 20 straight home games and the Rams are 148-23 all-time at the Siegel Center. That’s just nuts.
  • Georgia State is now 0-6 all-time at the Siegel Center, one of four CAA foes that has never won a game in the building. Towson, Hofstra and Delaware are the others.
  • Skeen was 2-of-3 from 3-point range Wednesday, his first game this year with more than one triple. Said Skeen, who was used primarily as a 3-point shooter during his two seasons at Wake Forest, “It felt good because this year I haven’t been shooting it well, so to see anything other than hook shots go in is great for me. It’s getting my confidence up.”
  • Rob Brandenberg entered Wednesday’s game just 8-of-18 at the free throw line, but made 8-of-9 against Georgia State. Brandenberg said after the game that he’s been shooting 100 extra free throws after practice every day.
  • David Hinton knocked down his first career free throw in the closing minutes. Hinton missed his first five career attempts prior to Wednesday’s game.
  • Brad Burgess and Ed Nixon were a combined 2-of-12 and the Rams won by 17. I think I can live with that.
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