The 19th-ranked Virginia Commonwealth Rams go in search of their 14th consecutive victory, as they challenge local rival Richmond at the Robins Center on Thursday night.
VCU is a stellar 16-3 on the season, and the team is 4-0 in Atlantic 10 Conference play. The Rams haven't suffered a defeat since falling to Missouri in a 68-65 final back on Nov. 24 in the Battle 4 Atlantis event in the Bahamas. Shaka Smart's club is a perfect 5-0 in true road games, and it is coming off a 90-63 rout of Duquesne in Pittsburgh last Saturday.
Richmond opened the season at 9-2, but an 87-59 shellacking at the hands of national power Kansas on Dec. 18 started the team on a downward spiral that has seen it drop five of its last eight. The Spiders blew out visiting Charlotte last Saturday however, 81-61, to improve to 10-1 at home and pull even in A-10 action at 2-2.
Richmond is an impressive 50-9 in its last 59 home games.
VCU leads the all-time series with Richmond by a 41-25 margin, and this is the first meeting between the two as conference foes since 2001. The teams will meet again on the Rams' home court on March 6.
Rob Brandenberg scored 22 points, Treveon Graham had 20 and Juvonte Reddic added 16, as VCU rolled over Duquesne last weekend. The Rams drained 50 percent of their field goal attempts, knocking down 12-of-31 3-point tries along the way, while the Dukes were held to 42.3 percent overall efficiency and were guilty of 19 turnovers. A 42-29 rebounding advantage certainly helped matters, the team improving its season effort on the glass to 36.7 rpg. VCU is averaging 79.3 ppg, that figure climbing to 82.0 ppg in conference games. The Rams are shooting 48.1 percent from the field against A-10 foes, but their long-range accuracy drops to 29 percent in those four games compared to 35.2 percent for the season. Graham continues to pace the club with his 16.2 ppg, hitting 50 percent of his field goal attempts and nearly 40 percent of his 3- point tries. Reddic (13.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg), Troy Daniels (12.6 ppg) and Brandenberg (11.2 ppg) have all helped VCU reach the lofty heights it has achieved this season.
Darien Brothers tied a school record with eight 3-pointers, scoring a career- high 39 points in helping Richmond put the brakes on a two-game slide by thrashing visiting Charlotte last weekend. The Richmond native scored the team's first 17 points and pulled down eight rebounds, shooting 10-of-14 overall and 11-of-12 at the free throw line in helping the Spiders knock down 49 percent of their total shots. Richmond won the game rather easily, despite being outscored in the paint (34-20), in second-chance points (11-7) and in bench points (26-14). Deion Taylor scored 13 points and Kendall Anthony chipped in a dozen for a Richmond team that averages 70.4 ppg in hitting 44.9 percent of its field goal attempts, with 38 percent of its long-range launches finding the bottom of the net. The club's defensive effort yields 65.2 ppg, with foes tickling the twine at a 43.2 percent clip, with 33.4 percent of their 3-pointers ringing true. Brothers' career game raised his team-leading scoring average to 16.2 ppg, and he is joined in double-digits by Derrick Williams (13.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Anthony (12.8 ppg). Williams is listed as questionable for this game with an ankle injury.