Troy Daniels is shooting 39 percent (69-of-175) from 3-point range this season.

RICHMOND, Va. – If Shaka Smart was trying to send Troy Daniels a message, he appears to have gotten his point across.

Daniels stroked 5-of-10 3-pointers and led VCU with 15 points in a 59-56 win over Northeastern Saturday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena. It was Daniels third straight solid shooting performance since Smart benched him midway through the Rams’ Jan. 25 game at Towson. In the three games since, the 6-foot-4 guard has averaged 15.3 points and 6.0 rebounds and has knocked down 14-of-30 (47 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc.

Smart has consistently preached that Daniels believe in his shooting ability and be ready when opportunities arise. Daniels was just 1-of-4 in 12 minutes at Towson last week when Smart decided he’d seen enough. It’s safe to say Smart’s tough love with Daniels is working.

“I’m always hard on Troy. My assistants say I’m too hard on Troy,” Smart said. “Just shooting the ball with confidence. He’s really a terrific shooter. He’s been doing a really nice job of shooting the shots that come to him for the most part. I don’t think he’s forcing too much. He shot 10 threes tonight and I really only thought one of them was forced.”

Daniels’ emergence comes at an important juncture for the Rams. Despite its 20-5 record, including 11-2 in Colonial Athletic Association play, VCU hasn’t shot the ball particularly well since January. That includes the 3-point line, a valuable weapon of the Rams’ attack. With Saturday’s performance, Daniels is shooting 42 percent (42-of-99) from 3-point range in conference play. The rest of the team is a combined 28 percent (54-of-196) from that distance in league games.

“We need him,” Smart said. “To be honest, the last month and a half, he’s been our only guy that’s been a consistent threat from the outside. We’ve got other guys that are good shooters, but they’ve struggled at times.”

Meanwhile, Daniels isn’t worrying about carrying the weight of the Rams’ 3-point struggles on his back. He’s just going to keep doing what he’s good at, catch and release.

“My teammates tell me to keep shooting, so that’s what I do,” he said.

After two non-descript VCU seasons, Daniels is averaging a career-best 10.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, while knocking down 39 percent (69-of-175) from the 3-point arc. Given his current average of 2.8 3-pointers per game, Daniels could seriously threaten B.A. Walker’s school single-season record of 92 treys, set during the 2006-07 season.

THE FREE THROW ADVENTURE
With 1:29 remaining, VCU held a comfortable 57-46 lead. Then things got nutty.

Sophomore Juvonte Reddic recorded his third double-double in five games Saturday.

VCU missed the front end of three straight 1-and-1s in the final 1:07, underscoring a forgettable performance by the Rams at the free throw line. Northeastern’s Jonathan Lee raced down the floor and hit jumpers following the first two misses to trim VCU’s advantage to 57-53. The Huskies’ Demetrius Pollard also missed a 3-pointer with 33 seconds left that would have made things really interesting. It wasn’t until a pair of Juvonte Reddic free throws with 29 seconds remaining that the Rams were able to hold off the Huskies.

The Rams were 12-of-24 from the line on the night and are shooting 65 percent from the charity stripe in conference play. Smart says he has no intention of ignoring the issue.

“We’re going to be shooting a lot of free throws over the next few days,” he said.

Darius Theus, who was 2-of-7 at the line Saturday, believes the Rams’ free throw ills are mostly mental.

“Free throws are a confidence thing,” he said. “If you miss the first one, let it go and move onto the next one. If you keep that first miss in your head, it affects the second shot. We always work on free throws in practice, so we’ll get good at it.”

The Rams are shooting 69 percent from the line overall this season.

RAMS COME HOME
Some 50 former VCU players were announced during a pregame ceremony on the court, a group that included Kendrick Warren, Calvin Duncan, Michael Brown, Len Creech, Ed Nixon and Michael Doles, to name a few.

“We wanted to honor our alumni,” said Smart. “We wanted to bring our former players back and let them know how much we appreciate them and say thank you. The reality is, VCU has a rich basketball tradition and wanted our guys to have an appreciation. For us to do what we’re doing now, what we did last year, what Eric Maynor’s teams did, those things don’t happen without the contributions of the Kendrick Warrens, the Gerald Hendersons, Calvin Duncan, and really all the guys that were here and the guys who couldn’t make it.”

HUSKIE DROPPINGS
Despite losing Bradford Burgess, Briante Weber and Reddic to foul trouble, VCU was able manage a 14-0 run late in the half and took a 31-25 lead into halftime… VCU grabbed 19 offensive rebounds, one shy of its season high… Reddic played nine minutes in the first half due to foul trouble and managed zero points and two rebounds. He finished with 11 points, 11 boards and a blocked shot. It was his third double-double in five games… VCU has won nine straight games and 17 of its last 19… VCU reached the 20-win mark Saturday for the sixth straight season and for the seventh time in nine years. It’s the 17th 20-win season in school history.

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