March 5, 2010
SANDERS, RAMS TAKE FIRST STEP IN CAA TOURNAMENT WITH 66-49 WIN OVER DELAWARE
RICHMOND, Va. – For Head Coach Shaka Smart, it’s kinda like playing a game of Connect Four. In order to have four in a row, the first chip has to be put into place.
Smart and his Virginia Commonwealth University men’s basketball did just that on Friday with a 66-49 defeat of the Fightin’ Blue Hens of the University of Delaware in the opening round of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament.
“I’m really proud of the way our guys defended today,” Smart said. “We knew coming in that in order to win we had to commit ourselves on the defensive end, and I thought our guys did just that.”
Leading the way was junior Larry Sanders (Fort Pierce, Fla.), who registered his 11th double-double of his career with 15 points, 13 rebounds, while adding three blocks and two assists in the victorious effort. Classmate Joey Rodriguez (Oviedo, Fla.) knocked down three three-pointers and finished with 12 points, while sophomore Bradford Burgess (Midlothian, Va.) added 10 points.
“We knew what we had to do coming in to today and I thought at times we were able to do that,” Sanders said. “I told my teammates in the locker room, the first quarter is over, now it’s time for quarter number two.”
The defense of the Rams was the story, holding the Blue Hens to 34.6% from the field in the first half and forcing 17 turnovers, seven of which came from All-CAA Second-Team selection Jawan Carter.
“Carter is a tremendous scorer and for our guys to hold him to single digits, obviously tells the story,” Smart added. “It was a great team effort because we had a bunch of different guys guarding him at different times throughout the game.”
With the score tied at 8-8, the Rams would tighten up the defense and hold the Fightin’ Blue Hens without a point for over six minutes to spark an 8-0 run to grab control of the game.
VCU would push the lead into double-digits for the majority of the first-half and junior Ed Nixon (St. Petersburg, Fla.) capped off the half with a steal and a three-pointer to send the Black & Gold into halftime with a 37-21 advantage.
Sanders would come out of halftime on a mission, scoring VCU’s first 10 points and helping the Rams increase their lead to 22 at 47-25 with just under 16 minutes remaining in regulation.
Delaware would not go away, cutting the lead to 12 on an Adam Pegg jumper with 7:52 left, but a dunk by Sanders and a three-pointer from junior Brandon Rozzell (Richmond, Va.) quickly pushed the VCU lead back to 17.
That was the closest Delaware would get the rest of the way, enabling Smart to go to his bench, having now players play more than 30 minutes in the contest.
“Our depth is going to be what gets us through this,” Smart said. “To have the amount of guys we have that can contribute on a nightly basis is a luxury. Hopefully, we’ll continue to lock down on defense and be able to show that for four days.”
Leading the way for the Fightin’ Blue Hens was Alphonso Dawson with 13 points and six rebounds, while Carter finished with eight points and three assists.
Next up for the Black & Gold are the fourth-seeded Patriots of George Mason University. The much-anticipated CAA Quarterfinal match-up is set for 2:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon at the Richmond Coliseum.