MEN’S BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK – NOVEMBER 21, 2011
RICHMOND, Va. – After spending the past six days in beautiful Charleston, S.C., the Rams returned home and got refocused on Western Kentucky, who they defeated 69-64 on Sunday afternoon.
However, this time will be on the Hilltoppers' home court as the two former Sun Belt rivals face off on Wednesday night in Bowling Green, Ky.
Prior to heading out to the Bluegrass State, here's the November 21st edition of the Men's Basketball Notebook.
BROTHER KNOWS BEST
Through the first three games of the 2011-12 season, sophomore Rob Brandenberg found himself struggling. He was 6-of-26 from the field, 4-of-16 from three and averaging 6.0 points per outing.
A phone call with his twin brother, Kevin, flipped a light switch for the Gahanna, Ohio native.
"He asked me why I wasn't taking the ball to the hole and just shooting three's," Brandenberg said. "The coaches have been saying that all year, but sometimes it just takes someone different saying it. Three-pointers are sometimes just the shot you take because it's easy to sit behind the line and fire away, but that's not how I can help the team the most."
Brandenberg listened to his brother on Sunday and it showed. He was 7-of-14 from the field with 10 of those 14 shots coming inside the arc. His 18 points was his highest total since Jan. 18th of last year when he poured in 23 in a 71-54 home win over Georgia State.
CALLING UP TO BOSTON
It's a rare occurrence in college basketball when teams face each other in consecutive games. That's what makes this week even stranger since this will be the second time in three years that the Rams have played back-to-back games against the same opponent.
In Coach Smart's first season (2009-10) as the helm, the Black & Gold faced off against Rick Majerus and the Saint Louis Billikens in a three-game CBI Championship series. This week's meetings with Western Kentucky is the first time VCU has had to face off against the same opponent in consecutive regular season games.
Smart and staff turned to a good friend back in 2010 against Saint Louis and will most likely do the same this week.
"It's almost like an NBA series when you have situations like this, so we decided to call Kevin Eastman [Assistant Coach with the Boston Celtics] to get some advice from him," Smart said. "The NBA goes through this all the time, so we just wanted to get some thoughts on making changes from game to game, using personnel differently, all the things that might help us prepare better."
MIXING BOWL OF STARTING LINEUPS
Four games into the year and it's already easy to tell that Coach Smart and his staff aren't going to hold back when changing the starting lineups.
Smart and company have already used three different lineups with eight different players getting a starting nod so far this year. After the win over Western Kentucky on Sunday, Smart commented on the lineup switches.
"The lineups are going to be determined by two things," Smart commented. "It comes down to who is giving us what we are looking for in practice and what type of personnel the opposition brings to the table."
The mixing bowl of starting lineups is not a rare occurrence for Smart as 10 different players were etched into the starting lineups last year.
DON'T BE LEFT IN THE COLD
With the 19 games between home games, the anticipation within Ram Nation is at an all-time high to see the Black & Gold live and in color and it's obvious by the looks of ticket sales.
Season tickets are up over 30 percent and after selling out the opener against Saint Francis, the Rams next home game against South Florida seems to be heading down that path as well.
As of this morning, there were less than 400 tickets left for the showdown against the Big East foe. It will mark just the second time in the past seven seasons that a BCS opponent has traveled to Richmond to play inside the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. The only other time was on Nov. 21, 2009 when 17th-ranked Oklahoma was taken down in an 82-69 VCU victory.
If the game were to sellout, it would be the sixth straight sellout for the Rams. The CAA record for consecutive capacity crowds is nine by UNCW during the 2003 campaign.
EMPTYING THE STATBOOK
- VCU has reached double-digits in steals in two of their first four games, both resulting in victories. During Coach Smart's tenure, the Rams have reached double-figures in steals 32 times. In those games, VCU is 27-5.
- Junior point guard Darius Theus has four assists and at least one steal in each of VCU's first four games. The Black & Gold are 15-3 all-time when those two things occur.
- Senior Bradford Burgess continues to make his way up several categories in the VCU record book. He now has started 114 consecutive games, just seven away from Michael Brown's school record of 121. His 1,240 points now rank him 22nd on the all-time scoring chart. Next up is Lorenza Watson with 1,257 points. His 155 three-pointers are just one behind Willie Taylor for seventh-place all-time. His 3,539 minutes have already cracked the top-10 in that category, now ranking ninth, just 70 minutes behind Mike Schlegel.
- Over the past two-plus season under Coach Smart and company, VCU is 35-2 when opponents score 65 or less.