TOWSON, Md. – The Rams were in good spirits after coasting to a 67-42 win at Towson Wednesday night at the Towson Center, but probably none of them was as happy as sophomore Rob Brandenberg.
After nearly a month of rough nights, Brandenberg broke out of an extended shooting slump against the winless Tigers. Brandenberg scored VCU’s first eight points and finished with a game-high 16. The 6-foot-3 guard knocked down 6-of-11 field goals, including 3-of-7 from 3-point range. He also provided four steals.
“It felt good,” Brandenberg said. “I’ve been struggling the last few games, everybody knows. It just felt good to get in the swing of things and just knock down shots and get back to the type of basketball I play, which is making shots, attacking the rim.”
Entering Wednesday’s game, Brandenberg was 8-of-45 (18 percent) from the field in the last eight games, including 3-of-24 (13 percent) from 3-point range.
Brandenberg says it’s the worst shooting slump he’s ever experienced at any level. In recent games, the frustration was evident. Brandenberg appeared hesitant on offense and badly missed some open looks. But on Wednesday, he knocked down his first two 3-point tries and settled into the game. He scored in a variety of ways, displaying the aggressive, slashing style for which he has become known.
As difficult as his struggles have been, he credited Coach Shaka Smart and his teammates with keeping his spirits high, even when his game wasn’t.
“My teammates, they always pick me up no matter what’s going on with me, if I’m making shots or not making shots,” Brandenberg said. “I’ve just got to keep on battling like coach would tell me, and just know I’m going to get back to it.”
Smart revealed that he and Brandenberg had discussed the sophomore’s struggles at length and agreed to use this game as a chance to make a clean break from his previous shooting issues.
“We’ve talked a lot about this being the start of the second half of the conference season,” Smart said. “It’s a fresh start for him, a new opportunity. We really want to judge him from tonight moving forward. I think that’s helped him mentally move on from the past several games.”
RAMS STAY FOCUSED
Wednesday’s defeat dropped Towson to 0-22 this season and extended the Tigers’ NCAA-record losing streak to 41 games.
Towson’s futility has made national headlines and avoiding the topic, Smart says, wasn’t going to work. He wanted to make sure the Rams didn’t take the Tigers lightly.
“We talked about that. I felt like it was important to address that because guys were probably seeing it on TV and hearing about it anyway, so it’s not something you can ignore and just hope the guys ignore,” he said. “We told our guys they’re dangerous, and I think our guys did a good job respecting them.”
Brandenberg agreed that Smart’s message came across loud and clear.
“Coach Smart, right when we started the scout, he told us, they may have lost all their games this year, but they can beat us if we come and we’re not ready to play,” Brandenberg said. “That’s why from the jump we tried to come with a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm. We didn’t want to be that teams’ first win. We didn’t want that to be on us, so we took a lot of pride in that.”
HOUSTON OUT INDEFINITELY
Redshirt freshman Heath Houston will need microfracture surgery on his right knee and will likely miss the remainder of season, VCU Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Communications Scott Day said following Wednesday’s game.
Houston, who has not been in uniform the last four games, has appeared in 10 contests this season, including one start, and is averaging 0.6 points and 0.6 rebounds per game. A 6-foot-8 forward from Powder Springs, Ga., Houston redshirted last season while recovering from a separate injury.
BY THE NUMBERS
VCU limited an opponent to fewer than 50 points for the third straight game, which is the third time in school history a Rams’ team has accomplished that feat… Freshman forward Jarred Guest scored 8 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Guest had scored 8 points all season prior to Wednesday’s game… All 12 healthy Rams played against the Tigers and none played more than 25 minutes. No starter played more than 23… VCU improved to 18-1 all-time against Towson… Senior Bradford Burgess scored 8 points against the Tigers to move past B.A. Walker and into 11th on VCU career scoring list with 1,482 points. Burgess also hit two 3-pointers and is tied with Brandon Rozzell for third place in school history in that category… The Rams forced 24 turnovers Wednesday. It’s the ninth time this season the Rams have turned an opponent over 20 or more times.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
“That’s what Darius does. He’s a great driver, he can get in the lane, and when he does, he draws so much attention, all you’ve got to do is be shot ready when that ball comes to you. You’ve got to knock it down.”
— Rob Brandenberg on Darius Theus’ 10-assist, 0-turnover performance.