February 6, 2010
RAMS POUND OLD DOMINION INSIDE, PICK UP CRITICAL 70-58 VICTORY
RICHMOND, Va. – There is a scene in Rocky IV that Rocky Balboa is running up snow covered mountains to train for his battle with Ivan Drago.
It was only fitting then, that on a day where the faithful followers of Virginia Commonwealth University men’s basketball drudged through snow covered roads and sidewalks that an import from Russia would serve as the key to a 70-58 victory over the Monarchs of Old Dominion University.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of our guys today, especially the way we locked down defensively,” Head Coach Shaka Smart said. “ODU is one of the best defensive teams in the country and we challenged our guys to be even better today and that’s exactly what we were able to do.”
Making his first start of the season, senior Kirill Pishchalnikov (Maykop, Russia) (above) went 5-for-7 from the field and 4-for-4 from the line for a season-high 14 points, while also grabbing five rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
“Kirill was tremendous,” Smart said. “He’s such a great kid and he’s been outstanding all year. At times, he saw his minutes decreasing, but he continued to bring the same energy and dedication to practice and it’s paid off. He really appreciates what it means to be a part of this program.”
Junior Larry Sanders (Fort Pierce, Fla.) (right) came off the bench to register his eighth double-double of the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while sophomore Bradford Burgess (Midlothian, Va.) led all scorers with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting. He also added six rebounds and three steals to the victorious effort.
“I had a lot of determination coming into this game, but coming off the bench increased that in more,” Sanders said. “This is a big win for us and we just have to stay focused, continue to work hard and get better every day.”
It was never easy for the Black & Gold as Kent Bazemore slammed home a dunk with 12:31 to play to give Old Dominion an early 18-8 advantage.
Burgess (left) would then turn it on, scoring six of VCU’s nine points in a 9-0 run that got the Rams within one at 18-17.
Neither team would lead by more than five points the rest of the half as the Monarchs would take a 33-31 lead into the intermission.
The Rams would lock down on the defensive end in the final 20 minutes, forcing ODU into nine turnovers and a 33.3% from the field. On the offensive end, Sanders and classmate Joey Rodriguez (Oviedo, Fla.) combined for 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the second half to help VCU outscore the Monarchs by 14 after halftime.
“I thought we did a good job of working hard defensively,” Smart said. “We have a couple different styles of presses that we use and ODU was able to handle one pretty good, so we had to make adjustments, but our guys were able to do that and cause some problems for them.”
Bazemore was the leader of the Monarch attack, finishing with 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and one steal, while Frank Hassell was the other player in double-figures for ODU with 10 points and five rebounds.
Old Dominion entered the contest ranking fifth in the country in rebounding margin with a +8.8 mark. The Black & Gold hit the glass hard, winning the rebounding battle by a tally of 39-37. Every player that played at least three minutes had a rebound.
“We work on a technique we called gang rebounding. It’s basically that all five players hit the boards and if one guy isn’t going to get the rebound, he’s going to clear the way for one of his teammates to grab it,” Smart said. “That’s exactly what we were able to do tonight.”
The crowd of 7,556 marked the fourth sellout of the season for VCU, tying a school record set in 2007-08.
The Rams now sit just a game out of second place with a road contest at George Mason looming on Tuesday night in Fairfax. Tip time is set for 7 p.m. with the game being televised on ESPNU.