RICHMOND, Va. – In this day and age, if you're not on Twitter, you're pretty much in the minority. With nearly 400 millions users worldwide, the reach of the popular social media service is tough to even measure. In order to "trend" on Twitter, you have to do something truly special.
Well, that's exactly what the VCU men's basketball team did on Sunday afternoon in the CAA Semifinals when they jumped out to a 32-4 lead and held on for a 74-64 victory over third-seeded George Mason to reach the CAA Championship game for the seventh time in the past 11 years.
"I give George Mason a ton of credit, they really battled and fought back after we really got off to a great start," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "I've never been a part of a start like that and surely wouldn't mind if that happened more often. It's just one of those things that happens when a lot of things collide. Our guys were really locked in, you could see the fire in their eyes."
The win marked the fourth straight year that the Rams ended the Patriots stay in the CAA Tournament, twice in the semifinals, once in the quarterfinals and once in the CAA Championship game. All four games were won by double-digits.
"We just came in focused and locked in on our mission," senior Bradford Burgess said. "Fortunately we were able to make enough plays down the stretch to get one step closer to achieving our goal."
Burgess led all scorers with 20 points on the night, marking the sixth straight CAA Tournament game in which the Midlothian, Va. native reached double-figures. He knocked down five three-pointers on the evening en route to moving into fourth-place on VCU's all-time scoring chart with 1,647 points.
"Brad came into tonight with a purpose and he proved once again that he was the best player on the court, just like he did on his senior night last week," Smart said. "He did what he's done all year and led us to a win."
Three other Rams landed in double-figures with junior Troy Daniels chipping in 17 points and six rebounds, while Rob Brandenberg tallied double-figures for the fourth time in the past five games with 14 points and three steals. Sophomore Juvonte Reddic was the final VCU player in double-figures with 12 points and four boards on the evening.
"There is one goal for this team right now and that's tomorrow night," Daniels said. "Every guy in that locker room is going to do whatever the team needs them to do to accomplish that goal."
Coach Smart could not have scripted the start to the game any better with the Rams knocking down their first eight three-point attempts and forcing George Mason into 12 turnovers in the first 11 minutes en route to a jaw-dropping 32-4 advantage.
Foul trouble would become an issue as the Patriots began to chip away at the lead thanks to Mike Morrison, who scored the final 10 points of the first half to bring Mason with 16, 48-32 , at the intermission.
With Mason heating up from the field, the Rams continued to cling to a lead, never letting them get closer than six before a couple free-throws and a steal and fastbreak layup from Reddic sealed the deal in the final minute of action.
"There's a lot that we can learn from tonight, but it's always better when we're learning and still getting wins," Brandenberg said. "We stuck together to make just enough plays to get the win."
The Rams now move on to take on top-seeded Drexel, winners of 19 straight, on Monday night in the CAA Championship game. Tip time on ESPN is set for 7 p.m.