November 16, 2010

RAMS DISMANTLE ACC FOE WAKE FOREST, 90-69, TO REACH PRESEASON NIT FINAL FOUR

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – With just over a minute left, senior Jamie Skeen was subbed out and as he left the court, he let out a loud scream. This game was not your ordinary game for Skeen, a transfer from Wake Forest who joined the Virginia Commonwealth University men's basketball program two years ago.

Skeen and his teammates executed their "Wreak HAVOC" style of play almost to perfection and dismantled ACC foe, Wake Forest, 90-69, to advance to the 2010 Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off Final Four next week at Madison Square Garden.

"I was definitely more hyped, but it was really just about getting to New York," Skeen said. "We have talked about reaching this goal since the summer and I'm just excited to accomplish that and do big things next week."

The Charlotte, N.C. native was a force down low scoring 15 points and opening up a wide-range of shots for his teammates on the perimeter. Junior Bradford Burgess led the Rams in the scoring column with 25 points, while senior Joey Rodriguez became the 30th VCU player in history to reach 1,000 points with 17 points on the night.

"I'm so proud of this club and the way we executed our game plan, behind the leadership of our seniors," Head Coach Shaka Smart commented. "When they were making a push early in the second half, our seniors really stepped up and calmed us down. From then on, it was our game."

With the Demon Deacons leading 6-4 early, Burgess and Skeen led a 16-3 run that quickly gave the Black & Gold all the momentum and grab a 20-9 advantage with 10:12 to play in the first half.

J.T. Terrell and Ari Stewart wouldn't let Wake Forest get too far away, combining for 17 first-half points and cutting VCU's lead to just three, 43-40, at the break.

The Demon Deacons would keep up the push early in the second half as a lay-up from Melvin Tabb with 13:57 to play gave Wake a 53-49 cushion.

"We had a timeout and that's when Joey just looked at everyone and just said "let's calm down", and that's exactly when the game turned in our direction and started to really execute our pressing style," Smart said.

In six of the next seven Wake Forest possessions, the Rams forced turnovers, which ignited a 16-2 run and gave the Black & Gold a double-digit cushion at 65-55 with 11 minutes remaining.

The lead would remain in double-digits for most of the second half thanks to 14 second-half points from Rodriguez. His three-pointer with 9:19 to play gave him exactly 1,000 points and he then added to that to end the game with exactly 1,003 points in his three-plus years at VCU.

Smart's "Wreaking Havoc" style of play was evident throughout, forcing 23 turnovers  and registering 11 steals on the night.

The Rams will now await to hear their next opponent after the first rounds of the NIT Season Tip-Off wrap up on Wednesday. Tickets for Madison Square Garden will be made available through the VCU Ticket Office on Wednesday morning.

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