RAMS’ WIN STREAK STOPPED AT NINE IN 91-80 LOSS AT NORTHEASTERN
BOSTON, Mass. – From the minute the Virginia Commonwealth University men's basketball team stepped on the snow-filled ground in Boston, it wasn't the most inviting place.
The trend didn't stop there, as the red-hot Huskies of Northeastern blistered the nets to the tune of 58 percent from the field en route to a 91-80 defeat of the Black and Gold. The loss snaps VCU's win streak at nine and drops them to 18-6 on the year and 10-2 in CAA play, tied with George Mason for first-place.
"Give credit to Northeastern, they came out and executed their game plan, but more importantly they played with more energy and focus than we did," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "We knew that this was a very dangerous team led by a trio of talented guards. Now it's up to us to use this as a learning tool for our upcoming road games."
Five different players tallied double-figures for the Rams, but ultimately the guard combination of Chaisson Allen and Jonathan Lee was the story, combining for 49 points on the night.
"Allen is a special player that is a tremendous leader for Coach [Bill] Coen and his team," Smart said. "Any time you have a guy as talented as him that can control the game like he can, you're going to have a dangerous team."
Senior Joey Rodriguez led VCU with 18 points, while classmate Ed Nixon and freshman Rob Brandenberg each registered 14 on the evening. Jamie Skeen and Bradford Burgess rounded out the double-figure scorers with 13 points apiece.
"We've had that balanced scoring all year, we know we have options offensively," Smart said. "Ultimately, that wasn't our problem tonight. For some reason, we got away from what had biggest strong suit during this streak, our defense. We'll get right back to work and focus on another big one on Saturday."
In pre-game meetings, the coaching staff of VCU talked about bringing energy from the opening tip and that's exactly what the Rams did, forcing turnovers in the Huskies first two possessions to grab an early 5-0 lead.
Northeastern wouldn't go away quietly though, as Joel Smith banged home a couple three-pointers to get the Huskies going. From there, NU crashed the boards and a jumper from Dinko Marshavelski with 11:47 left in the first half put the Rams down six, 19-13.
Enter Burgess and Rodriguez, who scored 15 of VCU's next 18 points and helped the Black and Gold reclaim the lead. VCU would head into the halftime break with a 43-36 cushion, thanks to 21 first-half points from the guard duo.
After lighting up the nets to the tune of 82 percent in the first half, the Rams went cold in the second half, going 0-of-8 from three and just 11-of-32 from the field as the Huskies went into a 1-2-2 press that rattled the Black and Gold.
"It's not like we have never seen that press before," Rodriguez said. "We play against the press in practice everyday. We just didn't play aggressive, and you can't do that."
VCU would turn the ball over eight times in the second half, and Northeastern capitalized to the tune 55 second half points. The Huskies were also 7-of-9 from beyond the 3-point arc in the second half.
"Bottom line is that we didn't play with enough energy and heart," Rodriguez said."That's on nobody, but us as players and especially us seniors. We can't let that happen and we won't. It's back to practice tomorrow and we have to be focused for a good JMU team on Saturday."
The Rams return to the road on Saturday when they travel west to take on the Dukes of James Madison in a 12 p.m. televised contest. The game can be seen on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic.