March 6, 2010
ROZZELL, RAMS BLITZ MASON IN SECOND HALF, HEAD TO SEMIFINALS WITH 75-60 WIN
RICHMOND, Va. – The George Mason pep band is infamous for playing Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” till the end of time.
On Saturday afternoon at the Richmond Coliseum, it was the Virginia Commonwealth University men’s basketball team yelling “Ooo we’re halfway there” after the Rams blitzed the Patriots in the second half and ran away with a 75-60 win in the quarterfinals of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament.
Junior Brandon Rozzell (Richmond, Va.) scored all 14 of his points in the second half and sparked a 43-25 outburst in the final 20 minutes to lead the Black & Gold to victory.
“This is the proudest I’ve been of this team all year,” Head Coach Shaka Smart said. “We’ve had a lot of big wins, but to see our guys hang tough and continue to battle for 40 minutes, it was terrific.”
Along with Rozzell, classmates Larry Sanders (Fort Pierce, Fla.) and Joey Rodriguez (Oviedo, Fla.) each scored 17 points. Sanders logged his second straight double-double with 12 rebounds and four blocks in addition to his offensive output, while Rodriguez added five assists and two steals on the afternoon.
The first 40 minutes saw a back and forth battle that had six ties and no team leading by more than seven points, but a jumper from Louis Birdsong and two free-throws from Luke Hancock sent Mason into halftime with a 35-32 advantage.
After halftime, it was much of the same as the 8,908 fans in attendance saw an epic battle in which a Cam Long dunk with 8:53 to play gave Mason a one-point lead.
Enter Rozzell. The Richmond native picked up three rebounds, a steal and three three-pointers over the next four minutes to swing the momentum in the Rams’ direction and give VCU a 62-55 lead with 4:44 to play.
“In one word, Brandon was phenomenal,” Smart said. “The energy he brought to us on both ends of the courts was outstanding. When he gets going, he’s tough to cool down, except for that dunk I guess. [laughs].”
Stifling defense would allow the Black & Gold to hang on as VCU held to George Mason to just 25 second-half points and 39.3% from the field. Over the past six games, the Rams have held their opponents to 58.9 points per game.
The only thing that the Rams couldn’t stop was Ryan Pearson as he finished with a game-high and career-high 22 points, while Luke Hancock scored all 11 of his points in the first 20 minutes of play. All-CAA Second-Team guard Cam Long was held to 2-of-12 from the field and just four points on the afternoon.
In the first two games of the tournament, VCU have held Long and fellow Second-Teamer Jawan Carter to 4-of-20 from the field and a combined 12 points.
The Rams will now move on to take on top-seeded Old Dominion in the CAA Semi-Finals for the second straight year. VCU, then the top-seed, came away with a 61-53 win. Game time at the Coliseum is set for 3 p.m.