VCU made a statement to its Atlantic-10 foes tonight: Don't count us out.
That's been the mantra of Shaka Smart's Rams since the 2011 season, when they used their First Four game in Dayton, Ohio as a launching pad for their unlikely 2011 tournament run that saw them enter the Final Four as an 11-seed. In a game where Dayton was favored by 1.5 points at home surrounded by one of the most supportive crowds in college basketball, VCU rose above it, and once again conquered Dayton - by an 80-66 final - for the first time since that 2011 season.
This game started out pretty evenly, as VCU forced their normal amount of turnovers, but Dayton was responding with numerous layups and easy baskets in the lane. About halfway through the first frame, the Rams made some defensive adjustments and never trailed afterwards, taking the lead 16-14 with 11:23 left in the first half.
VCU held the lead 36-27 at halftime, and the Flyers never got closer than five points the rest of the way. While Shaka Smart kept his players fresh with frequent substitutions, Dayton's players seemed to be pretty fatigued as the game dragged on, which certainly played a factor in VCU's easy victory.
To Dayton's credit, they're a much better team than they showed tonight. While 1-3 in the conference, the Flyers should have plenty of opportunities to prove that they indeed are one of the best teams in the Atlantic-10. While the Flyers were able to shoot 46 percent for the game, VCU took 14 more shots over the course of the game, which contributed to the Flyers' downfall.
I'm surprised that Dayton did not attempt more three pointers considering they made half of them (7-14). Dayton seemed to be having little luck driving to the hoop at times and the majority of their turnovers occurred under or near the basket. Devin Oliver had an outstanding performance, posting 21 points and swishing a pair of threes. Dyshawn Pierre had 14 points, and other than that none of the other Flyers had more than eight.
VCU hoisted threes in the game like nobody's business, taking 24 and making nine of them. The Rams' motion offense creates a lot of openings for shooters behind the arc, and a lot of their missed three-pointers were on wide open attempts. Even when victory seemed inevitable, the Rams never took their foot off the pedal and continued their full-court press and harassing defense to cause turnovers deep into the second half.
Juvonte Reddic had 18 points for the Rams tonight, including his team's first nine points of the second half. He also flirted with a double-double and led all players in the game with seven boards. Briante Webber also scored 18 for VCU, his second highest total of the season.
Notable stats of the night:
- Vee Sanford, a 6-4 guard, tied for the most rebounds for Dayton with six.
- Devin Oliver made all nine of his free-throw attempts. The rest of his team made just 35 percent (6-for-17).
- The Rams did not attempt a single free throw in the first half.