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I don’t think anyone expected VCU to handle Alabama the way they did. The Rams treated the Tide like a Winthrop or a Stetson, completely taking them out their game. Shaka Smart’s squad, and the 23rd consecutive sellout crowd at the Siegel Center, showed former VCU coach Anthony Grant they’ve been doing just fine without him. Here are some thoughts:
- There was a really cool moment before the game when former VCU star Jesse Pellot-Rosa made a guest appearance in the Papa John’s shootout. Pellot-Rosa drilled a half-court shot to win the entire area free pizza, then went over and hugged his former coach Grant on the Alabama sidelines. Subsequently, the top flew off of the Siegel Center.
- Alabama’s offense was in complete disarray for the better part of the first half. The Tide failed to record a field goal in the first 11:50 of the game and turned the ball over nine times over that period. VCU forced 13 Alabama turnovers and eight steals in the first half.
- Shaka Smart has employed five different starting lineups in 10 games so far this season. The most popular has been the combination of Darius Theus, Juvonte Reddic, Treveon Graham, Troy Daniels and D.J. Haley, which he’s used four times. In the past two games it’s been Briante Weber, Rob Brandenberg, Reddic, Daniels and Graham. That’s likely due to the ailment of Theus’s recovering from a knee sprain, but the four-guard lineup has been highly effective. I would expect Theus to replace Weber in the starting five once he’s 100 percent, but with a team of this kind of depth the starting lineup doesn’t mean much.
- Juvonte Reddic recorded season-lows in points and minutes last night, with just four points in 15 minutes. Reddic picked up his third foul seven minutes into the second half, which gave D.J. Haley a chance to unleash his inner beast. Quite simply, Haley was a stud. He set new season-highs in points and rebounds, notching six points, six rebounds and two blocks in just 16 minutes. However, Haley needs to play more disciplined. His four fouls in that short amount of time are a cause for concern.
- It’s safe to say the small shooting slump Troy Daniels was experiencing is gone. Daniels went 9-for-33 (27 percent) from Nov. 23 to Dec. 1 over a four-game span that stretched over the Bahamas tournament. Since then, Daniels has gone 14-for-29 (48 percent) and hit 12 three-pointers over the past two games in which he’s played 40 minutes combined.
- Rob Brandenberg has been two completely different players from the first half to the second half this season. While he’s often looked sluggish and timid in the first half, he’s usually confident and poised in the second. Brandenberg is averaging just 3.4 points on 33 percent shooting in the first half in 10 games this season. In the second half he’s averaged 6.4 points on 47 percent shooting. Big difference.
- VCU’s strong offense rebounding continued against Alabama when the Rams grabbed 11 of the 31 available rebounds on offense (35 percent). VCU is now 28th in the country with a 39 percent offensive rebounding percentage.
- This was another quality win for VCU against a good Alabama team. The Rams have moved up to No. 30 in the RPI with strength of schedule that ranks 17th in the country.
Up next: VCU (7-3) hosts a Western Kentucky team (8-3) that took Murray State down to the wire Sunday afternoon. All three of the Hilltoppers’ losses this season have been close, including an eight-point loss to Iowa earlier in the season. VCU and Western Kentucky met twice last season – in the Charleston Classic and the first of a two-game home-and-home – with the Rams winning both meetings.