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In the pregame stretches, Briante Weber trudged east to west near half court, murmering, “I smell blood.”
The VCU men’s basketball team had just gotten back from a grueling trip to the Bahamas, one of business, in which the Rams took on three straight top 20 teams in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.
Despite the renowned competition, a 1-2 record in the early season tournament didn’t sit well with head coach Shaka Smart’s squad.
So when a middling Stetson team out of the Atlantic Sun Conference showed up at the Siegel Center Wednesday night, Weber wasn’t the only one with a fiend to get back to the basics of winning.
Junior forward Juvonte Reddic scored 20 points in 21 minutes of play and was one of four players in double-digits in VCU’s 92-56 rout of Stetson.
“The Bahamas was pretty much a reality check for us that we got to get back to the basics,” Reddic said. “And we did a good job of that tonight.”
In an overall effort that showcased a less-than-charming first half by both teams, VCU had the upper hand. It was the large hand of Reddic, which poured in 14 first-half points in the paint that the Hatters had no answer for.
“We didn’t think that they could guard him one-on-one,” Smart said.
And the Hatters couldn’t. Adam Pegg, a transfer from Delaware that had faced VCU four times previously, came into the game as Stetson’s leading scorer, averaging over 18 points and six rebounds a game.
Reddic abused Pegg in the paint, slam-dunking and hook shooting his way to a game-high scoring total. Pegg went 0-for-4 and had just one point before fouling out in the second half.
Reddic shot 8-for-11 and had two steals.
“Every time we get it to him something good happens,” junior guard Rob Brandenberg said.
Much like Reddic, Stetson didn’t have an answer for VCU’s pressure either, which forced the Hatters to turn the ball over 13 times in the first 20 minutes. Stetson shot 5-of-19 from the field and 1-of-9 from deep, garnering up just 22 first-half points. The Hatters’ five buckets in the first half were the fewest VCU has given up in a half dating back to March 1, 2008 in a win over William & Mary.
Their shooting woes eased up in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to mask the amount of turnovers. The Hatters manufactured a 13-0 run midway through the second half to cut the VCU lead to as low as 15 with 12 minutes left to play. That quickly dissolved when the Rams answered with a 22-5 run of their own to help lift their lead to as much as 38 late in the second half.
The separation allowed VCU to empty its bench and give players like sophomore forward Jarred Guest some quality playing time.
Guest was silky smooth from mid-range and brutally bruising in the paint, scoring a career-high 17 points and hauling in 10 rebounds in just 16 minutes for his first career double-double. Justin Tuoyo’s numbers might not have been as flashy, but the freshman’s four rebounds, three blocks and two assists in 18 minutes were duly noted.
“(It) felt great,” Guest said. “Our whole little focus was bringing HAVOC like we have in the past, so that was my whole goal.”
VCU scored 32 points off turnovers and had 14 steals off 22 forced turnovers. Briante Weber notched 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals. Brandenberg had 17 points, four rebounds and four steals.
It was the third game this season VCU has had four or more players score double-digits.
Said Brandenberg: “It’s not a one-man thing on this team.”