To say Briante Weber hasn’t been an offensive force lately wouldn’t be too far off the mark. In fact, he hadn’t broke double-digits in points since Dec. 18 against Western Kentucky when he had 13 points.
But on Saturday afternoon against the 20th ranked Butler Bulldogs, Weber found his scoring touch that had been eluding him for months.
Weber couldn’t have started his day any more impressively. Just under three minutes into the game, Weber came up with a steal at half court and finished it off with an emphatic one handed jam. His dunk, which registered 110 decibels in the Siegel Center from the crowd, was part of an important 9-0 run by the Rams very early on.
Shortly after, Weber was feeling so confident that he attempted a 3-pointer that was just off the mark. Entering halftime, he only had four points, one assist, and one steal, but was playing his role as a facilitator and play-maker quite well which was part of the reason why VCU led Butler 45-21 at the half.
Weber led the full court press in the first half which ended up being a decisive factor in the opening 20 minutes and it’s something teammate Darius Theus noticed.
“We were pretty aggressive today,” Theus said. “You can always see the press on film, but once you’ve got to deal with it in live play, it’s kind of hard to deal with.”
Coming out in the second half, it was imperative for the Rams to keep the lead they had and not let Butler go on a run to get back into the game. But, after two and a half minutes into the second half, Butler had gone on a 7-0 run and brought the game within 17.
Cue a perfectly timed Shaka Smart timeout to calm his team. Weber and his teammates took the floor and the Briante Weber show began. The first play following the timeout was a 3-pointer from Weber, followed by a mid-ranged jumper by Weber again. When asked if Weber taking three’s was something he expects, Theus wasn’t too shocked to see it go in.
“He’s in the gym every night, I expect it to go in,” Theus said. “We’ve got the confidence in him to take them in the game. He has been working on his shot and it’s paid off.”
Weber scored his final two points with 15 minutes to go in the game thanks to a pair of free throws. He attempted another 3-pointer a few minutes later, but mainly focused on the part of his game that he’s best known for – defense.
When asked how it was playing against VCU’s HAVOC defense, Stevens explained it the best way he could.
“Have Weber and Theus stand in front of you as you’re typing your article and just swipe as your computer constantly and see if the article gets done,” Stevens said. “It’s hard to operate against good athletes…I haven’t see a team that fast yet.”
Weber finished the game with 11 points, two assists and two steals. Granted this isn’t a standout stat line, but nonetheless, a solid game offensively for a player nationally recognized for his defensive abilities.
“It’s significant because he’s been struggling on offense,” Smart said. “The great thing is, this week he worked hard on his game after practice…[he] spent a lot of extra time working on [his] game and it’s paid off.”
Smart pointed out how Butler was going to take their chances with Weber and Theus, as well as putting pressure on scorers like Troy Daniels, Treveon Graham, and Juvonte Reddic. He says Weber did a “good job of making them pay today” by capitalizing on their mistakes and turning them into points.
Weber and the rest of the team hadn’t beaten a team by that margin since Jan. 2 when they demolished East Tennessee State 109-58. Saturday’s loss was something Stevens said was completely out of their control.
“Nobody in the country is coming in here with this atmosphere, the amped up crowd, and the anticipation of a game and win,” Stevens said.