VCU held James Madison without a field goal the final 7:59 Thursday

RICHMOND, Va. – Chalk up another busted offense to VCU’s “Havoc”.

The Rams high-energy, full-court pressing style of defense wore down James Madison in the second half of VCU’s 65-45 win over the Dukes.

JMU shot 33 percent (17-of-51) from the floor in the game, including 30 percent (8-of-27) in the second half alone, and scored a season-low 45 points. The Dukes trimmed a 33-24 VCU halftime lead to 42-41 with 12:17 left before the Rams’ defense overwhelmed them. VCU closed the game on a 23-4 run and held the Dukes without a field goal over the final 7:59.

“I do think the press had a cumulative effect tonight, and our style of play was able to wear them down,” said VCU Coach Shaka Smart. “I think they got a little tired.”

The pressure was especially daunting for James Madison because of its ongoing personnel issues. The Dukes have been beset by injuries and illnesses, and only eight players saw action Thursday. At one point in the second half, guard Humpty Hitchens, arguably JMU’s best player, had to exit the game with leg cramps. He later returned following treatment from the Dukes’ training staff.

“It certainly has a cumulative effect on us,” said JMU Coach Matt Brady. “We don’t have a deep team. We don’t see a lot of pressure. Even in practices, there isn’t a lot we can do because we’ve only got nine guys.”

VCU was particularly effective against JMU point guard Devon Moore, who committed a season-high seven turnovers.

“For the most part it is a little different,” Moore, who also had 9 points and 5 assists, said. “It makes you think faster and makes you maybe throw a wild pass. At the same time I’ve just got to slow down and take care of the ball myself.”

Clearly unhappy with the Rams’ perimeter defense in its loss at Drexel on Sunday, Smart said the Rams dedicated their entire Monday practice to defense, as well as “75 percent” of Tuesday’s session. The strategy appeared to work, as JMU recorded the lowest shooting percentage by a VCU opponent this season.

Despite its shiny 12-5 record, VCU is carrying some grizzly shooting percentages on its roster, including senior Bradford Burgess’ .351 and Troy Daniels’ .380. But no Rams’ shooting woes have been greater than those of sophomore Rob Brandenberg.

The sophomore badly missed on a pair of 3-pointers on the way to a scoreless night in 17 minutes of action in Thursday’s win. It was Brandenberg’s fourth straight poor shooting performance. In those four games, he is 2-of-25 from the field is averaging fewer than three points a game.

Brandenberg, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard with electric speed and quickness, has watched his field goal percentage sink to .306, including .292 from 3-point range.

Smart believes that Brandenberg’s troubles are a matter of personal belief.

“[It’s] confidence,” Smart said. “He’s a great player. He’s a talented kid. He’s just not going out and playing with a clear head right now. He really, really wants it to go well. Right now he’s pressing. He’s going to break out of the slump, I can guarantee you that, I can’t tell you when. I wish I could guarantee you it will be Saturday at 4 o’clock, but he’s too good of a player not to.”

Troy Daniels hit two 3-pointers and finished with eight points against the Dukes.

Daniels and JMU forward Andrey Semenov each received a Flagrant 1 technical foul following a near altercation midway through the second half.

With 9:03 remaining, Semenov and Daniels jostled for a rebound under the VCU basket. The players became tangled and as they tried to free themselves, tensions escalated. Daniels and Semenov ended up nose-to-nose and had to be separated amidst some pushing and shoving.

Following the game, both coaches approached the situation diplomatically.

“Troy was kind of in a tough spot because the kid kind of had his arms around him. He was just trying to get out of it, but he did kind of push off and flail his arms, so that’s why they called the double ‘T’,” said Smart.

Brady went a step further.

“Andrey Semenov does get frustrated and I’ve had that conversation with him,” he said. “I think he fouled the VCU player. The VCU player probably retaliated. I know I would. We need Andrey to smarter, so I take responsibility for Andrey, to be honest with you, because he’s not learned that lesson. That’s on me.”

VCU outrebounded James Madison 44-30, the Rams’ largest rebounding margin in 65 games. The last time they outrebounded an opponent by more than 14 was on Feb. 16, 2010 when VCU crashed the glass to the tune of a 45-26 advantage in a 73-54 rout of Drexel at the Verizon Wireless Arena. Bradford Burgess provided a double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds) in that game, as he did Thursday (10 points, 12 rebounds)… Darius Theus knocked down 2-of-5 attempts from 3-point range, his first triples since VCU’s win over Richmond on Dec. 9. Theus had missed all 10 of his 3-point tries in his last seven games… VCU grabbed 15 offensive rebounds Thursday and outscored the Dukes 15-5 on second-chance points… Behind Treveon Graham’s 18 points, the Rams’ bench outscored JMU’s 32-2.