RICHMOND, Va. – VCU avoided the proverbial “trap game” Monday night, using another stout defensive effort on the way to a 61-49 victory.
It wasn’t always pretty. The Rams committed a season-high 17 turnovers and were 12-of-21 at the line, but they also forced 18 Hofstra turnovers and completely locked down the Pride offense in the second half. Hofstra was 4-of-20 from the field after the break, including 0-of-5 from 3-point range.
As has been a reoccurring theme this season, VCU was able to use its intense defensive pressure to wear down the Pride in the second half.
“Sometimes it feels like they’ve got seven or eight guys out there,” said Hofstra Coach Mo Cassara.
The Rams led 35-32 at the break but took command with a 6-0 burst early in the second and never looked back.
VCU, which has won four straight and 13 of 16, was coming off an emotionally-charged win over rival Old Dominion on Saturday. The Rams were also playing their third game in five days, but managed to avoid a letdown and grind out a choppy win.
“That ODU game, it’s a very emotional game and a game everybody wants to win so bad and when you do win it like we did, it’s just human nature to take a deep breath,” VCU Coach Shaka Smart said. “It’s better if you have a few days in between that game and your next game, but we didn’t, we had less than 48 hours. We were worried about that, but I think our team showed some maturity tonight in that, I think we respected Hofstra and understood that they’re a dangerous team.”
IN THEIR DEFENSE
It’s time to start believing in VCU’s defense.
VCU has limited its last two opponents, Old Dominion and Hofstra to 48 and 49 points, respectively. It’s the first time since the 2007-08 season that the Rams have held consecutive opponents to fewer than 50 points. In addition, the Rams are allowing 59.0 points per game. The school record is 58.8, set during the 2007-08 season.
The Rams have held five opponents to under 50 points this year. Prior to this season, VCU had held a team to fewer than 50 six times in the last three years combined. The 2007-08 squad did it eight times.
Much of VCU’s effectiveness comes off turnovers, as the Rams produce 17.6 per game. What’s been somewhat unexpected, however, has been VCU’s ability to force those miscues in the half court this season, as opposed to just the full court press.
“I just think there’s been a renewed emphasis on half court defense,” Smart said. “People probably think about our full court pressure when they think of how we play, but we also, in the half court, want to very disruptive, pressure the ball and challenge passes, not just allow them to pop the ball around the perimeter.”
Freshman Briante Weber added four more steals in 18 minutes against Hofstra Monday. He is just outside the top 10 in VCU single-season history with 54. Weber is averaging 2.6 steals per game. If he continues at his current pace, he would threaten the Rams’ single-season record of 88, set by Rolando Lamb in 1984-85.
Juvonte Reddic is averaging 12.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in CAA play… Reddic provided 10 points and 10 rebounds Monday, his first double-double since the Rams’ season-opener against St. Francis (Pa.)… Darius Theus knocked down a 3-pointer for the third straight game, the longest such streak of his career. Theus is 5-of-12 (42 percent) from long range in his last five games… VCU booked its 14th consecutive sellout Monday, extending its school and conference records.