ATLANTA, Ga. – Facing their fifth game in 10 days, the VCU men's basketball put any fatigue aside entering Saturday afternoon's showdown with Georgia State. The Rams had one thing in mind: revenge.
The Black & Gold did just that with a gutsy 59-58 win over the Panthers in a loud and boisterous Georgia State Sports Arena. It was VCU's seventh straight win and sixth time in the past seven games that the Rams held an opponent under 60 points.
"I'm really proud of the way our guys battled and locked in on the defensive end," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "It was a tough game because we used a bunch of different defensive looks, but our guys did a good job staying focused and did just enough to get a gutsy road win."
The one-point margin of victory may be a little deceiving with the Rams controlling most of the second half and holding an eight-point lead with under 40 seconds to play. Georgia State's Josh Micheaux then tried to play the role of Superman, scoring eight straight points for the Panthers. However, freshman Briante Weber was able to connect on a free-throw with less than 10 seconds remaining, which proved to be the difference.
"That's one of those moments you always practice, stepping up to the free-throw line with the game on the line," Weber said. "I just tried to do my job and knock them down for my teammates."
Leading the way offensively for the Rams was the junior duo of Troy Daniels and Darius Theus, who combined for 35 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. Sophomore Juvonte Reddic registered his third double-double of the year with 11 points and 10 rebounds on the afternoon.
"I thought today was another example of how many guys can step up for us," Theus said."Throughout the game, we had everybody make big plays. It's going to take an all-out effort from all of us to accomplish the goals we have and I think tonight showed that."
The teams traded baskets for the first five minutes before Reddic and classmate Rob Brandenberg connected on back-to-back buckets to give the Rams a 15-10 cushion with 13:31 remaining in the first half.
VCU would extend the lead to six a couple times on buckets by Reddic, but Georgia State ended the stanza with five straight points to send the Black & Gold into the locker room with a 25-24 advantage.
The second half would start much the same way as the first until the Rams went into suffocation mode on the defensive end, holding the Panthers to just one field goal over a 7:41 span. During that stretch, four different Rams filled the cylinder, including Daniels and freshman Treveon Graham from long range to give VCU its largest lead of the game at 44-33 with 8:25 left in regulation.
The lead would not drop below six until Micheaux's last ditch efforts. Micheaux had hit a total of two three-pointers all year before he heaved up two in the final 10 seconds against the Rams.
However, VCU was able to connect on five of their final six free-throw attempts to secure a tough road win, improving to 7-2 in true road games this season.
"We know what we have to do on the road," Daniels said."We know that things aren't going to go our way, but if we stay focused on the things we can control, we'll always have a chance to win."
The Black & Gold owned the glass once again with a 39-33 rebounding advantage thanks to Reddic's 10 and a career-high eight rebounds from Daniels.
VCU wraps up its three-game road swing with a Wednesday night showdown at William & Mary. Game time on ESPN3 is set for 7 p.m.