GREENSBORO, N.C. – Seeing family and friends around the holidays is always special. Seeing those same family and friends after winning six straight games is even more special.
That's exactly what the VCU men's basketball team will be doing this weekend after the Rams posted their sixth-straight double-digit victory, 80-68, over a scrappy UNC Greensboro squad on Thursday night. It is the first time since the end of the 1973-74 season that a VCU team has won six straight by double-digits.
"I give a lot of credit to UNCG and Coach Miller for the way they played tonight and really challenged us all night long," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "Ultimately, we were able to put a stretch together in the second half where we played our style of play and that was the difference."
Senior Bradford Burgess led the Rams offensively with 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting, while corralling five rebounds. Sophomore Rob Brandenberg poured in a season-high 17 points, with 11 of those points coming in the second half. Classmate Juvonte Reddic posted his third straight double-figure game with 15 points and six rebounds.
"Winning on the road is never going to be easy, so it's great to head into the holiday break with another win," Burgess said. "However, we know we didn't play the way we should have and we know that we have to get better moving forward."
For the 10th time this year, the Rams registered eight or more steals, while their aggressiveness on the offense end resulted in a 21-of-26 charity stripe performance for the Black & Gold.
"For whatever reason we allowed them to be the aggressors for most of the night," Brandenberg said. "We can't let that happen to us. We have to stay aggressive and play our style of play for 40 minutes."
It was a back-and-forth battle early. With the score tied at 12, Burgess took over, scoring 10 straight VCU points and giving the Black & Gold a 22-15 advantage with 9:52 to play in the first half.
Trevis Simpson wouldn't allow UNCG to get far behind, scoring 13 points and bringing the Spartans within one on several occasions in the first stanza. However, four straight points by Reddic would send the Rams into halftime with a 38-34 lead.
The two teams traded baskets to begin the second half, but HAVOC would appear around the 14 minute mark. VCU would force six turnovers over the next six minutes to ignite a 20-7 spurt that gave the Rams their biggest lead of the game at 15, 65-50, with 8:16 remaining in regulation.
UNCG would cut the lead to eight twice in the final five minutes, but the Black & Gold were able to knock down seven of eight from the charity stripe to secure the 12-point victory.
Simpson led all scorers with 20 points for the Spartans, while Derrell Armstrong added 11 points off the bench for UNCG.
Burgess had quite a night in the record books as he set a school record with his 122nd consecutive start. He is now 25 away from the all-time college basketball record of 147 by Duke's Kyle Singler. The Midlothian, Va. native also moved passed Joey Rodriguez, Willie Taylor and Michael Brown on the all-time scoring chart into 14th place with 1,375.
The Rams now have a couple days off for the holidays before focusing on the Zips of Akron. Game is set for Dec. 29th at 7 p.m.