SHAKA SMART MEDIA MINUTES (FEB. 23)

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VCU-Richmond, Round 2 is coming up Wednesday. Shaka Smart met with the esteemed River City media to discuss the rivalry and more.

SAINT LOUIS NOTEBOOK; GRAHAM LOOKS SHARP AGAIN

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Senior Treveon Graham scored a team-best 16 points in Tuesday's win over Saint Louis.

Senior Treveon Graham scored a team-best 16 points in Tuesday’s win over Saint Louis.

RICHMOND, Va. – It’s unclear who had more spring in their step Tuesday, Treveon Graham or VCU fans after seeing the Rams’ star look sharp in a 74-54 rout of Saint Louis at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

Graham has been nursing a high ankle sprain, originally suffered Jan. 13 at Rhode Island and re-aggravated Feb. 4 at George Mason. The injury has cost Graham three games this season, and VCU has lost two of them.

It’s clear the ailment has affected Graham’s explosiveness of late, a source of concern for fans aware of his importance to this team, especially given the loss of Briante Weber two weeks ago.

But Graham looked much like his old self in Tuesday’s win. He scored VCU’s first eight points against the Billikens. He appeared to have good lift on his jumpers and out-jumped several other players for an early tip-in. Graham finished with a team-high 16 points and six rebounds.

“Yeah, I felt pretty good today,” Graham said afterwards. “Every day I’m getting better and better. I just wanted to come out and be aggressive. If I came out aggressive, I felt like my teammates would come [along].”

VCU Coach Shaka Smart assured people that his trained eyes also saw a more dynamic Graham Tuesday night.

“It’s a big lift he gave us, because our other guys were struggling to score early in the game. I thought tonight was the best that he’s moved since he sustained the injury. So that was good,” said Smart. “He and our athletic trainer have been working really hard around the clock with treatment and different modalities to work on that thing. Sometimes it’s frustrating because it doesn’t seem like it’s doing much, but I thought tonight it was a different bounce that he had and explosiveness.”

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SHAKA TALKS SLU (MEDIA MINUTES)

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A rematch with Saint Louis is on deck here in wintery Richmond. Shaka Smart met with the media Monday to talk about it.

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And, in case you missed it, here’s Coach Smart following VCU’s win over George Washington Saturday.

SHAKA SMART MEDIA MINUTES (FEB. 9)

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Shaka Smart looks back at Saturday’s tough loss at St. Bonaventure and ahead to Wednesday’s game with La Salle.

BRIANTE WEBER AND THE MORNING AFTER

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Do you know how much VCU fans love Briante Weber? I thought I did, but I was not prepared for the all-out blitz of emotion pouring from the souls of the VCU faithful. On Saturday night, I wrote a column on my couch in a blur with a pit in my stomach and a stiff drink on the coffee table. Within 10 hours it had become the most read post in this six-year history of this blog.

Today, Shaka Smart addressed the media for the first time since Weber’s injury. While George Mason awaits on Wednesday, Weber’s status dominated his weekly presser.

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Meanwhile, it’s time to start picking up the pieces. For the fans, that means it’s time to celebrate an incredible career. Weber averaged 6.8 points per game as a Ram, and yet, he’s one of the most beloved players in school history. And here’s why:

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WEBER’S STATUS VCU’S MAIN CONCERN FOLLOWING RICHMOND LOSS

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Senior Briante Weber leads the nation in steals.

VCU Senior Briante Weber leads the nation in steals.

RICHMOND, Va. – Richmond snapped VCU’s 12-game winning streak Saturday, but the Rams’ greater concern moving forward will be the status of senior point guard Briante Weber, who left the game with a non-contact injury to his right knee.

In his press conference following the 64-55 loss, VCU Coach Shaka Smart said he did not know the severity of the injury, and that an MRI was imminent.

“We’re hopeful it’s something he can come back from, but I don’t want to say more than that because I don’t know.”

With 3:18 remaining, Weber drove and made a jump stop inside the free throw line, then crumbled to the floor in obvious pain. He was escorted off the floor by the VCU athletic training staff. Weber returned to the VCU bench on crutches a short time later.

Richmond players and coaches shook Weber’s hand afterwards and offered words of encouragement.

“I just said [to him] that guys overcome a lot of things, and people wouldn’t have predicted he’d become the great player that he is and NBA prospect that he is, so what’s bad for a regular person might not be as bad for him, and I wished him luck in getting better,” said Richmond Coach Chris Mooney.

Losing Weber for any period of time would be significant for VCU. Weber has often been the Rams’ catalyst on both sides of the floor. He is currently leading the nation in steal percentage for the fourth straight year, and his play sets the tone for the Rams’ “Havoc” defense.

Weber scored 11 points and grabbed six steals prior to Saturday’s injury. He has 374 career steals, 11 shy of the NCAA career record. Weber is averaging 8.0 points, 4.1 assists and 3.9 steals per game this season.

Although Weber has been relatively injury-free during his career, the Rams did manage an 85-69 win over Tennessee on Nov. 14 in the season-opener while Weber served a suspension. Sophomore JeQuan Lewis and freshman Johnny Williams will be asked to pick up the bulk of the slack at the point for the Rams.

“We’ll wait and see,” Smart said. “He’s an integral part of what we do. We’re hopeful he’ll be back soon, but if he’s out, we’re going to keep playing. You can’t cancel the season. We’re going to keep playing. That’s why you have a full roster of guys. In terms of style of play, we’re not going to change a whole lot [if Weber’s out], but guys are just going to have to step up and play.”

VCU, which entered the game ranked 14th nationally in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll, is 17-4 overall and remains in first place in the Atlantic 10 at 7-1 despite the loss.

The Rams will travel to George Mason on Wednesday before heading to St. Bonaventure on Feb. 7.

DEEP, VERSATILE RAMS SEND MESSAGE IN LOP-SIDED WIN OVER GEORGE WASHINGTON

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Sophomore Mo Alie-Cox provided 10 points and 8 rebounds, and played stout defense, in VCU's 72-48 win Tuesday night.

Sophomore Mo Alie-Cox provided 10 points and 8 rebounds, and played stout defense, in VCU’s 72-48 win Tuesday night.

RICHMOND, Va. – There was a moment at the end of the first half Tuesday night where Mike Lonergan appeared close to earning a technical foul. Referee Tim Kelly clearly gave the George Washington coach a second look before Lonergan, protesting contact on VCU’s final possession of the half, cooled down and retreated to his lockerroom.

On second thought, he probably wishes he had stuck to his guns and picked up a couple of technicals.

Instead, he returned to the floor for the second half and watched powerlessly as VCU pulverized his Colonials squad 72-48. VCU actually led by as many as 29, and George Washington shot an abysmal 19 percent (5-of-26) from the field in the period as the Rams rumbled to their 12th straight win.

On paper, it was a contest between the Atlantic 10 Conference’s preseason No. 1 (VCU) and No. 2 (GW) teams. On the hardwood, it was no contest at all.

The Rams haven’t lost since Dec. 6, but still found a way to open people’s eyes Tuesday night. It was a performance impressive in both because of who the Rams beat and how they did it. It was the type of game that spoke to how good this VCU team can be. VCU, which has played one of the toughest schedules in the country, didn’t need to justify its top-15 ranking, but the Rams sure looked every bit like a top-15 team anyway.

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VIDEO: VCU DISMANTLES GEORGE WASHINGTON 72-48

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HIGHLIGHTS

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SHAKA SMART

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VCU PLAYERS

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GEORGE WASHINGTON COACH MIKE LONERGAN

SHAKA SMART MEDIA MINUTES (JAN. 26)

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It’s a big week for the VCU Men’s Basketball team. The Rams host George Washington Tuesday, then prep for Richmond Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Arena. VCU Coach Shaka Smart met with the media Monday morning to size up the Colonials and reflect on the Rams’ win at Saint Louis.

 

SHAKA SMART MEDIA MINUTES (JAN. 19)

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With Saint Louis on the horizon, Shaka Smart looks back on Saturday’s win at Duquesne, talks about Treveon Graham’s health and sizes up the Billikens.

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