RICHMOND, Va. – Last March, the entire country learned about the tradition of VCU Basketball and saw it culminate in one of the most unforgettable runs in NCAA Tournament history. That run was made possible by the all-time greats that make up the storied history of Ram basketball.
On Saturday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, the Black & Gold celebrated that history on Homecoming weekend and this year's Rams made sure to make it a happy celebration with a 59-56 win over Northeastern. It was the ninth straight victory for VCU, who has now won 20-plus games in six straight seasons.
"It was a hard fought win and I'm proud of our guys for really battling and making just enough plays," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "Northeastern's a tough team that just hung in there and kept fighting and made the game a lot closer than we would've liked obviously, but I thought the difference for us came in the late first half and early second half when we were able to build the lead to enough that we were able to hang on at the end there."
As of Saturday evening, the Rams are one of just five schools in the country to have 20-plus wins over the past six seasons (2006-pres.). The other four are North Carolina, Syracuse, Ohio State and UNLV. Only 28 teams entered this season with an opportunity to reach that feat.
"This basketball program has a rich, rich tradition and to get to 20 wins again in front of all the former players that were here tonight was really special," Smart said.
Sharpshooting Troy Daniels continued his assault from beyond the arc with a team-leading 15 points on five treys, while sophomore Juvonte Reddic posted his third double-double in the last five games with 11 points and 11 rebounds on the evening. Four other Rams had at least six points on a night where the Rams showed their depth once again.
"We've got a very deep team and we've different guys that really can give us a lot of good minutes throughout the course of a game," Smart said. "I thought in the first half when a couple guys were in foul trouble, we got a huge lift from guys like Treveon Graham, Teddy [Okereafor], D.J. [Haley], a good bench really can make a difference and I really think that was key to tonight because we had a little more depth than they did."
As expected, it was a battle from the tip with the Rams taking an early lead, but the Huskies responded and led by as many as seven after Kashief Edwards connected on a jumper with 10:16 to play to give NU a 14-7 cushion.
Three-pointers from Daniels and classmate Darius Theus helped VCU get back within two, but Northeastern responded by pushing the lead back to six on a offensive putback by Quincy Ford with 5:34 to play.
That's when the Rams kicked into high gear, forcing six turnovers and holding the Huskies without a point over a 5:33 span, while VCU took off on a 14-0 run to ultimately take a 31-25 advantage into halftime.
VCU's lead would stay in double-digits for much of the second half, but the pesky Huskies wouldn't go away and chipped the lead down to five on two occasions. However, a layup by Reddic with 1:29 to play looked to seal the win for the Rams, giving them a 57-46 lead at the time.
As has been the case during the entire head-to-head history between the two programs, Northeastern wouldn't stop scrapping and behind Jonathan Lee scored 10 points in the final 1:10 to make it close, but the Rams held on for their ninth-straight win, 59-56.
Reddic's 11 rebounds led the Black & Gold on the glass, where they won the battle 37-31, including 19 offensive boards. Six different Rams tallied an assist and VCU finished with nine steals on the night to raise their national-leading total to 248.
VCU is back in action on Broad Street on Wednesday night as they host the Tigers of Towson University. Tip time on ESPN3 is set for 7:30 p.m.