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College Men’s Basketball: Grant learns VCU has a long memory

DANIELS, GRAHAM LEAD VCU OVER

FORMER RAMS COACH GRANT, TIDE

BY NATHAN WARTERS

THE FREE LANCE–STAR

RICHMOND—Anthony Grant rarely lost at the Siegel Center in his three seasons as VCU’s men’s basketball coach, and when he did it was by the slimmest of margins.

So no one would have blamed him for feeling out of sorts at his former home arena Saturday evening.

Grant returned to VCU’s court for the first time since taking the head coaching job at Alabama in 2009, and he suffered his worst loss ever there, as the Crimson Tide crumbled at the hands of the Rams’ pressure defense in a decisive 73–54 VCU victory.

“It’s certainly a hostile environment,” Grant said. “I think the biggest thing is they’re an awfully good team.”

Grant lost only five games at the Siegel Center in his three seasons as VCU’s coach, none by more than nine points. His Crimson Tide team trailed the Rams (7–3) by as many as 26 points in the second half en route to the second-worst loss of Grant’s career.

Grant sat quietly on the bench as the second-half clock wound down. There wasn’t much he could do to spur on his players, who couldn’t seem to get anything going against VCU’s pressure defense.

“I think with the intensity that they play on the defensive end, they’re as good as any team we’ve seen,” Grant said. “It’s a hard prep because of the way they come at you defensively with the press and in the half court.”

Senior guard Troy Daniels led the way for the Rams with a game-high 16 points. Sophomore guard Treveon Graham had 14 points and tied for the team high with six rebounds.

VCU’s defense forced 18 turnovers, a season high for the Crimson Tide (6–3), and held Alabama to its lowest point total of the season.

“I think the tempo really won us the game tonight,” Rams guard Darius Theus said. “We knew we had more depth than them. We play a lot of guys for a short period of time, and we knew if we wore them down it would play in our favor.”

The day started gloriously for the 7,693 Rams fans in attendance. Former VCU standout Jesse Pellot–Rosa, one of Grant’s former players, made a halfcourt shot before the game to earn free pizza for the entire arena.

After making the shot, Pellot–Rose ran over to Grant and gave him a bear hug.

The energy in the arena continued as VCU stormed out to a 14–4 lead. The Rams’ pressure defense frazzled Alabama from the opening tip. VCU forced 13 first-half turnovers and held the Crimson Tide to only 6-of-17 shooting before the break.

Alabama missed its first eight field goal attempts and had nine turnovers by the midway point of the first half. The Crimson Tide’s first field goal came on a Rodney Cooper layup with 9:16 remaining in the first half.

“I thought from the defensive end, the first half that we were able to play was impressive, and really if you take away the free throws at the end of the first half, that’s as good as we’ve defended in a while,” VCU coach Shaka Smart said.

The Crimson Tide cut the Rams’ advantage to 11 early in the second half, but VCU went on a 15–4 run over a three-minute span to build an insurmountable lead that eventually swelled to 26.

The Rams have won four straight since losing consecutive games to No. 2 Duke and No. 12 Missouri in late November. With the win over SEC foe Alabama, VCU has now beaten at least one team from the six power conferences under Smart.

The Rams are 6–2 against power conference teams in their home arena.

“It just shows we can do it. We can beat very good teams from power conferences, particularly at home,” Smart said. “We’d like to play more of these games at home, but you can see why they’re tough to schedule.”

    ALABAMA (6–3)

    Randolph 3-6 3-3 10, Lacey 2-6 2-2 8, Gueye 0-1 2-3 2, Cooper 3-7 3-4 9, Releford 3-9 3-5 9, Obasohan 0-2 1-2 1, Pollard 5-7 3-4 13, Slaughter 0-2 2-2 2, Jacobs 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 16-41 19-25 54.

    VCU (7–3)

    Reddic 2-5 0-0 4, Weber 1-4 2-2 4, Graham 4-8 6-6 14, Daniels 6-13 0-1 16, Brandenberg 3-8 2-3 10, Guest 1-1 0-0 2, Haley 2-2 2-4 6, Johnson 4-5 1-2 12, Okereafor 0-1 2-2 2, Theus 1-3 1-2 3, Hinton 0-1 0-0 0, Tuoyo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 24-51 16-22 73.

    Halftime–VCU 33-18. 3-Point Goals–Alabama 3-11 (Lacey 2-4, Randolph 1-2, Cooper 0-1, Obasohan 0-1, Releford 0-1, Slaughter 0-2), VCU 9-25 (Daniels 4-11, Johnson 3-4, Brandenberg 2-4, Weber 0-1, Okereafor 0-1, Graham 0-2, Theus 0-2). Fouled Out–None. Rebounds–Alabama 28 (Pollard 8), VCU 31 (Graham, Haley 6). Assists–Alabama 8 (Lacey, Slaughter 2), VCU 16 (Okereafor, Weber 4). Total fouls–Alabama 22, VCU 20. A–7,693.

Nathan Warters: 540/374-5442

nwarters@freelancestar.com

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