RICHMOND, Va. – The Rams can move onto their holiday break with clear heads. VCU did what it was supposed to do in Friday’s 93-56 throttling of Longwood. There were no surprises, just a comfortable win where the Rams played to their ability.
The Rams kept the pedal to the medal, stomping out any fears of a lackluster performance and/or an overlooked opponent. In recent years, despite lesser opponents, that hasn’t always been the case in VCU’s last game before Christmas.
But rather than look ahead to Christmas ham and family time, VCU took care of business. The Rams scored the first nine points of the game and were up 19 by halftime. Although Longwood shot 44 percent in the first half, the Rams also forced 13 turnovers.
Whatever flaws VCU had on the defensive end in the first half were cleared up in the second when the Rams used a 17-0 run over an eight-minute stretch to turn the game into a 76-40 laugher. From there, it was all academic.
Senior Darius Theus, who finished with five points, five steals and nine assists, said the Rams were able to block out potential distractions.
“I think it’s hard for a lot of teams, but I think coming in and being ready to play separates good teams from okay teams, and I feel out approach was real good tonight,” Theus said. “Even though guys are excited about going home and being with their family, we only had one thing in mind. That was getting this win tonight.”
The last three seasons have included so-so showings in wins over Tulane and UNC Greensboro on the road, as well as a stunning loss at UAB in VCU’s final game before the holiday break.
“It’s human nature to be thinking about getting away for a little while and be able to see your family, but I thought out guys locked in pretty well for most of the game and followed the plan,” said VCU Coach Shaka Smart. “We had two spirited practices the last couple of days after Western Kentucky. We really got after each other.”
Theus came off the bench for the fourth straight game, giving way to sophomore Briante Weber in the starting point guard spot.
The 6-foot-3 Theus injured his right knee in VCU’s win over Stetson on Nov. 28. He missed the Rams’ contest with Belmont on Dec. 1 and has played 16, 27, 17 and 21 minutes off the bench in the last four games, respectively. Although he once started 43 straight games for the Rams Theus doesn’t appear bothered by new role.
“It doesn’t matter to me. I just want to help the team the best way I can,” Theus, who handed out nine assists and turned the ball over just once Friday said. “It’s a different feel, but when I come off the bench, me and Coach talk about, it’s a different type of energy, and if that’s what he wants me to do, then I’ll do it, no matter what. I’ll do anything for the team.”
Theus said after Friday’s game that his knee is starting to feel better, but Smart hasn’t said when or if he’ll reinsert his senior into the starting lineup. Starting or relieving, it hasn’t affected Theus’ play much of late.
The last two games, as Theus appeared to regain range of motion and explosiveness in the knee, he’s been a catalyst for the Rams on both sides of the floor. In lob-sided wins over Western Kentucky and Longwood, Theus is averaged 4.5 points, 7.0 assists and 5.5 steals per game, and his assist-to-turnover ratio over that span is nearly 5-to-1. In Theus’ last 40 minutes on the floor – a full game’s worth of action – the opposition has scored a grand total of 24 points.
“He’s been phenomenal,” Smart said. “He’s been so locked in. He’s just all about the team. He doesn’t care about statistics. Diving on the floor, deflections, steals, he’s been great. He’s been the best player on our team.”
VCU has topped 90 points in three of its 12 games this season. The last time the Rams notched three 90-point games was during the 2010-11 season… Former VCU star Joey Rodriguez, an assistant video coordinator at Central Florida, attended the game and was seated courtside… Since starting the season 1-of-11 from 3-point range in his first three games, junior Rob Brandenberg is shooting 48 percent (19-of-40) from long range… For the second time in four games, junior Troy Daniels set a career-high for points. Daniels knocked down seven 3-pointers against Longwood and finished with 25 points. In his last four games, Daniels is shooting 48 percent (21-of-44) from that distance. He needs three 3-pointers to pass Jamal Shuler for seventh on the Rams’ career list… No Ram has played more than 23 minutes in either of the last two games… VCU has outscored its opponents by an average of 22.1 points in seven home games this season.