They call it "Havoc," and VCU's defense sure caused plenty of it. The Rams force 21 Belmont turnovers, and use a 19-2 second half run to top the Bruins 81-68, ending Belmont's 23-game home winning streak.
Belmont, who started the game without guard Reece Chamberlain, lost guard Craig Bradshaw in the first half after a collision with Reddic. Bradshaw, who suffered a concussion last season, did return to the bench during the second half, but did not return to the game.
The Bruins got off to a fast start, with their first 12 points coming from behind the arc. A Brad Evans layup gave Belmont a 23-11 advantage with just under 12 minutes remaining in the first half, forcing a Shaka Smart timeout. But the Bruins would turn over the ball on four of their next five possessions, allowing VCU to begin cutting into their lead.
A Blake Jenkins three would push the lead back to nine for Belmont with 8:05 to play, but the turnover bug struck again, as the Bruins turned over the ball on three straight possessions, as VCU cut the lead to three. A three-pointer by Treveon Graham with 2:39 left in the half gave the Rams their first lead, which they would take into the second half.
After trading baskets early in the second, Belmont used an 11-2 run sparked by a Drew Windler three to take a 50-44 lead. But that's where VCU took over, and held on down the stretch for the 13 point win on the road.
VCU shot 49% from the field, and hit an impressive 16-18 from the free-throw line on the night. Belmont hit 11 three's, as just under half their field goal attempts came from outside the three-point arc. J.J. Mann struggled, shooting 5-19 from the field in the loss.
The Rams took Belmont's best punch out of the gate, and responded well. The defense was aggressive, which did lead to a few open looks for three, but the forced turnovers really disrupted Belmont's usually efficient offense. Offensively, when VCU was able to set their offense, and run their high-weave, the Bruins struggled to stop it. While the rebounding numbers were even on the stat sheet, I can't help but feel that VCU probably got 60-70% of and "50-50" balls.
While it would be interesting to see how the game might have played out if Chamberlain were available, or if Bradshaw didn't get injured in the first half, the Bruins struggled mightily against the Rams pressure. While they hit 40% from behind the arc, there was a definite period of time where they weren't falling late in the first half. Despite being in the bonus, Belmont was unable to attack inside and draw fouls, one reason Belmont shot only 13 free-throws on the night.
Both teams showed tonight why they're receiving votes in both polls, and why no team in March will want to see them on their side of the bracket, regardless where they land seed wise.