RICHMOND, Va. – Whatever Shaka Smart said or did at halftime of Thursday’s game, he should remember it and then repeat it every day for the rest of the season. I don’t care if he built his team up, tore it down, broke a whiteboard or played “Fire on the Mountain” on the banjo, he needs to bottle it, because if VCU can play better than the first 14 minutes of the second half of Thursday’s 86-68 blitzing of UMass, I’d like to see it.
VCU, trailing 42-37 at intermission, embarked on a 21-1 run at the start of the second half and turned a tight game into a chance for fans to beat the traffic. At one point, VCU pushed its run to 44-12 and assumed an 81-54 advantage before calling off the dogs with six minutes remaining.
“I think we were able to break their spirit a little bit with that run, and that was the determining factor in the game,” Smart said.
It was like watching the best possible version of the Rams for 14 unmatched minutes. The Rams (20-5, 8-2 A-10), who won a game by 51 earlier this season, actually found a sixth gear. UMass’ first 11 possessions of the second half went as follows: turnover, missed 3-pointer, turnover, missed 3-pointer, free throw, turnover, turnover, missed 3-pointer, shot blocked, turnover, turnover. By the time that hellacious six-minute stretch was over, it was 58-43. Game, VCU.