VCU holds off VMI, 86-80
Keydets cut lead from 13 to 1 late
Good senior leaders step up when their teams need them the most. That’s exactly what was on display for the Virginia Commonwealth University men’s basketball team on Wednesday night against in-state rival, VMI.
Seniors Jamie Skeen and Brandon Rozzell combined for 37 points, 24 in the second half, to lead the Rams past the upstart Keydets, 86-80, in an offensive-minded contest.
“I’m sure that was a fun game to watch, but it wasn’t a fun game to coach that’s for sure,” coach Shaka Smart said. “I’m proud of our guys ability to stick with each other and find a way to win against a tough, athletic VMI squad.”
The Black & Gold had four players in double-figures led by Skeen who tallied 19 points and corralled nine boards. Rozzell was a big reason the Rams were able to stay ahead with 18 points on the night, 14 of which came in the second half.
Five Keydet tallied double-figures with both Austin Kenon and Keith Gabriel scoring 17 points, while Stan Okoye registered a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“Their one of the most dangerous teams in the country,” Rozzell said. “It’s going to be tough for teams to match their quickness and ability to shoot the ball. If they get hot, watch out.”
VMI came out strong with a fastbreak lay-up from Kenon putting the Keydets up eight, 12-4, less than four minutes into the contest.
Back-to-back three-pointers from Rob Brandenberg and Bradford Burgess sparked a 13-4 run that was capped off with an old fashioned three-point play by Skeen to put the Rams up 17-16.
That’s when sophomore Troy Daniels got hot, drilling four three-pointers over a span of six minutes to give VCU a 46-35 advantage heading into halftime.
“That’s what he does every day in practice and it’s even better than that,” Rozzell said. “We all knew it was coming and tonight just happened to be that night. We can’t wait to see him continue that for the rest of the year.”
A lay-up by Rozzell gave VCU their largest lead at 13, but the Keydets wouldn’t go away and got within one four different times in the second half, but clutch plays by Burgess, Skeen and senior Joey Rodriguez allowed the Rams to hold on for the 86-80 win.
“We knew they were a team that wouldn’t go away, but we just kept trying to keep everybody calm,” Skeen said. “The ability to stick together was really the difference in the game, particularly in the second half.”
Skeen and junior Toby Veal lead the Black & Gold to a 42-36 rebounding advantage with Veal grabbing a career-high 10 boards on the night. Sophomore guard Darius Theus played big minutes with six assists and three steals for the Rams.