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No. 10 VCU forces turnovers, but comes up short in 84-80 loss to Georgetown

  • d3d8649e9b860d27440f6a70670049a9.jpg

    VCU guard Rob Brandenberg, left, pressures Georgetown guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera during an NCAA college basketball game in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo) (The Associated Press)

  • b8ac21f69b840d27440f6a7067001c43.jpg

    VCU head basketball coach Shaka Smart yells instructions out to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Georgetown in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo) (The Associated Press)

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    VCU guard Briante Weber, left, pressures Georgetown guard Markel Starks during an NCAA college basketball game in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo) (The Associated Press)

Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart suspected his team might not be as good as the No. 10 ranking it brought to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

Smart found out for sure over the final two days of the tournament.

VCU forced 26 turnovers, but couldn't overcome its poor shooting in an 84-80 loss to Georgetown in the fifth-place game on Sunday.

"One thing we learned down here in PR is we have to get better," Smart said. "We already knew that, but now we've been smacked across the face with it."

Briante Weber had 22 points for VCU, which went 34 for 47 at the free-throw line. Treveon Graham added 17 points.

There were 61 fouls called in the game, which lasted nearly three hours.

While Smart was loath to criticize the officiating, he said fouls certainly played a factor. He said that was especially in true in the final 20 minutes of the game.

"It is very, very difficult to continue to play aggressively when all of sudden the game is being called more closely than it was earlier in the game," he said. "That's the fastest I've ever seen a team get in the bonus ever."

The Rams outran the Hoyas in their previous meeting in 2011 when they had a blowout win in the second round of the NCAA tournament on their way to the Final Four.

It was close throughout this time around. VCU (4-2) sped up the Hoyas at times, but shot 35 percent for the game.

Georgetown (3-2) shot 56 percent, and was 6 for 11 from the 3-point line.

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera had 26 points to lead the Hoyas' attack.

Markel Starks added 23 points, and went 10 for 10 at the foul line to help preserve the win. Joshua Smith finished with 17 points.

Even in victory, Georgetown coach John Thompson III praised a Rams team he said made it hard for the Hoyas throughout the game.

"Everyone talks about VCU's defense but they always have five guys on the floor that can attack (on offense)," Thompson said. "I thought the key wasn't handling their pressure, but making it hard for them to score."

Despite some first-half turnovers, Georgetown handled VCU's pressure until back-to-back takeaways and scores bookended an 8-0 spurt that nudged the Rams out to a 48-41 lead with 14 minutes to play.

Georgetown came back, and took a 67-60 lead with 4:20 remaining on a pair of free throws by Starks.

The Hoyas lost some of their quickness when Jabril Trawick went to the bench with his fifth foul on the next trip down the floor. But they kept attacking inside and got a layup from Nate Lubick that made it 69-63.

VCU closed to 81-78 on a layup by Weber Graham with 14.1 seconds to play, and again at 83-80 with 1.8 left, but the Hoyas were able to close it out at the line.

In a fast-paced opening 20 minutes that featured five lead changes, VCU took a one-point lead into the locker room, thanks to a lopsided advantage at the line.

The Rams went 14 for 19 from the foul line. The Hoyas got there just three times, going 2 for 3. They were 32 of 37 on foul shots for the game.

Georgetown controlled the pace early, sprinting out to an 8-0 advantage, but it didn't last.

VCU began to get some turnovers off its pressure, forcing 14 for the half that led to 15 points on the offensive end.

The Rams took their largest lead of the half at 26-20.

"We gotta get better," VCU guard Rob Brandenberg said. "(It was) definitely a reality-check coming down here and not accomplishing our goal. There's a lot of season left. We just gotta have an urgency to get better."

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Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower