January 30, 2010
RAMS FIGHT THROUGH SNOW, DROP GEORGIA STATE, 78-62
RICHMOND, Va. – There is a saying that is associated with the United States Postal Service that states “Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail will keep the postmen from their appointed rounds.”
The Virginia Commonwealth University men’s basketball team may be borrowing that statement for the evening as the Black & Gold grinded out a physical contest against Georgia State for a 78-62 victory in front of 4,548 loyal fans at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.
“First of all, I want to thank all the fans that came out tonight. I was really impressed with the amount of fans in the building, it was great,” Head Coach Shaka Smart said. “As for the game, I’m proud of the way our guys battled tonight, through a very physical contest. Of course there are things that we need to fix, but overall I thought nearly everybody did their job.”
Junior Joey Rodriguez (Oviedo, Fla.) (left) was the leader of the pack with 22 points, nine assists and four rebounds, while classmate Larry Sanders (Fort Pierce, Fla.) tallied his sixth double-double of the year and third straight with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Freshman Darius Theus (Portsmouth, Va.) registered double figures for the first time in his career with 10 points.
“It’s been like this several times this year where you have different guys step up and different times during the game,” Smart added. “Darius has shown flashes all year and tonight you saw the same thing for about three or four minute stretch in the first half. It was great to see.”
Joe Dukes gave the Black & Gold fits early on, connecting on his first five shots and dishing out three quick assists to help the Panthers claim a 16-10 lead with 11:29 to play in the first half.
Sanders would spark a 16-4 VCU run with seven points off his own to give the Rams a 26-20 advantage. The lead would grow to 13 at halftime as the Black & Gold scored seven of the half’s final nine points, including five from the charity stripe.
Georgia State would fire up the defense after the break, forcing 15 second-half turnovers and climbing within three after a three-pointer from James Fields with 6:27 remaining.
Enter Ed Nixon (St. Petersburg, Fla.). The junior chipped in an old-fashioned three-point play and drilled a big three-pointer over the final five minutes to seal the 16-point victory. More impressive than Nixon’s offense was his defensive prowess, as he locked down on Dukes for much of the second half, stifling him to just 1-of-11 shooting in the final 20 minutes.
“Dukes is a very talented player that can really get going offensively,” Smart said. “I thought we allowed him to do that early, but once we got locked in on him, it really bothered him and forced him into some shots he probably didn’t want to take.”
It was the second consecutive game that the Rams had five players in double-figures with Nixon and junior Brandon Rozzell (Richmond, Va.) joining Sanders, Rodriguez and Theus with 10 and 12 points respectively.
Dukes led the Panthers with 17 points on 6-of-20 shooting, while grabbing six rebounds and dishing out four assists. Xavier Hansbro and James Fields each added 10 points for Georgia State.
“We’re focused on making a surge in this second-half and so far we’re 2-0,” Smart said. “Now we need to take this momentum into UNC Wilmington, which is a very tough place to play and is a very hungry team right now. It’s all about our guys staying focused.”
The Rams are back in action on Wednesday when they travel to the always dangerous Trask Coliseum for a 7 p.m. matchup with the Seahawks of UNC Wilmington.