RICHMOND, Va. – Six years of frustration by the University of Richmond men's basketball team came out on Saturday night and unfortunately the Virginia Commonwealth University men's basketball team was on the other side of that contest.
Richmond took control of the Farm Bureau Insurance Black & Blue Classic early and never looked back, defeating the Black & Gold 72-60 to end a six-game winning streak by VCU in the city rivalry.
"I give Richmond a lot of credit for executing their game plan early and really getting us off our game in the first half," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "They hit a lot of tough shots and for some reason we came out passive, which played right into their hands and allowed them to open up a big lead."
Senior Jamie Skeen led the way for the Rams with his second double-double of the year with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Ed Nixon and Bradford Burgess were the other two VCU players in double-figures with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
The Spiders owned the first 20 minutes, holding VCU without a field goal for the first 8:45 until junior Burgess connected on an old-fashioned three-point play to make the score 12-5.
Justin Harper and Kevin Anderson took over from there leading Richmond to 53.1% from the field and a commanding 40-17 lead at the break.
"I can't tell you why we keep starting slow, but I know we have to fix it and we have to fix it now," Burgess said. "We had two great practices, our game plan was good and we were focused coming in, but for some reason we just didn't execute in the first half. We have the next week to figure it out and we will, we have to."
After halftime, Richmond was able to extend its lead to as large as 30, but that's when the Rams woke up, going on a 23-8 run and getting within 12 on several occasions, but the rally came just a little too late.
"That's the toughness and tenacity we want our guys to show for all 40 minutes, but it just came to late tonight," Smart said. "I'm proud of the way they continued to battle, but we have to be able to do that from the opening tip."
For the Spiders, Anderson was the star with 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while dishing out seven assists and grabbing three rebounds. Harper finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Darien Brothers was the third player in double-figures with 12.
Sophomore Darius Theus and freshman Juvonte Reddic were big off the bench for the Black & Gold with seven and six points, respectively. Along with Nixon, the trio helped lead a 28-11 advantage in bench scoring for the Rams.
"I actually want us to sit on this for a few days, I want it to stew in our guys and really think about what we have to do to get better," Smart said. "We have exam week coming up, so our focus will be on academics for the most part, but when we step on the floor, we have to be locked in to getting better everyday."
VCU returns to action next Saturday in a home showdown with the Green Wave of Tulane. Tip time at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center is set for 2 p.m.