- Score: VCU 59, Lehigh 55
- Record: VCU (12-3), Lehigh (9-4)
- Location: Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center - Richmond, Va.
- The Short Story: The Rams returned home and used a stellar defensive effort to pick up their ninth straight victory with a 59-55 defeat of a very talented Lehigh squad. The Mountain Hawks, who entered the contest as the 12th-highest scoring offense in the country, were held to just two field-goals over the final 6:16, while VCU connected on 8-of-8 from the charity stripe over the final six minutes to seal the 59-55 win. Sophomore Treveon Graham led all scorers with 17 points on the night.
How It Happened
- The two teams would start the game trading defensive stops and buckets over the first six minutes of the contest.
- Conroy Baltimore hit back-to-back free-throws with 13:44 showing on the first half clock to cut VCU's lead to 12-11. From that point, the Rams rolled off a 13-4 run capped off by a pull-up jumper from junior Rob Brandenberg to give the Black & Gold a 25-15 advantage.
- That's when Lehigh decided to end the half on a run of its own (15-4 over final 5:35) with Mackey McKnight sending the Mountain Hawks into the break with a 30-29 after connecting on a layup in the lane in the final minute.
- The second half would start much like the first with the teams trading buckets before Graham ignited an 11-2 VCU run that gave the Rams a 42-36 lead with 10:20 to play.
- With the nation's leading scorer, CJ McCollum, on the bench after suffering an injury in the first half, the Mountain Hawks would continue to battle hard and stay within one possession of the Rams for most of the final 10 minutes.
- Lehigh got an offensive putback from Gabe Knuston with 2:34 to play to get within 52-51, but VCU answered with a second-chance bucket of its own, this time a three-pointer from Troy Daniels to push the lead to 55-51.
- However, it was senior Darius Theus who would come up with a steal and block in the final 30 seconds to help the Black & Gold secure its ninth straight win.
Beyond the Boxscore
- Graham's 17 points on the night extended his double-digit scoring streak to eight games. He currently leads the Rams with 14.8 ppg.
- For the first time all season, VCU won after heading into halftime on the wrong end of the scoreboard. Previously, the Rams were 0-3 when facing a halftime deficit this year.
- VCU has now forced 22 or more turnovers in five straight games and extended its nationally lead to 21.4 opponent turnovers a game.
- The Rams have now tallied 89 steals in their past five games and have now registered 202 thefts on the year, which is tops in the country.
- VCU is now one of the just 12 schools in the country to not allow an opponent to score more than 70 points in a game this year.
Head Coach Shaka Smart
- "I thought this was exactly the type of game that we needed headed into Atlantic 10 play. Of course you love to win by a lot like we had been doing. It feels good and looks good on the stat sheet, but the reality is that we haven't been in a close game since November 24. It's good to have an experience like this, obviously, I can say that after we've won."
- "I thought Lehigh really did some good things and took us out of some of the rhythm that we've been in over the past month, but credit to our guys for making free-throws and battled on defensive, doing a good job for the most part, plugging some holes on some drives that we were trying to make and that ended up being the difference for us."
Senior Darius Theus
- "Knowing that we're going to be in a lot of tough, close games soon, we've put a lot of work in our free-throws recently and it definitely paid off at the end tonight. It helped all of us step up to the line with confidence tonight and knock them down.''
Senior Troy Daniels
- "We definitely need a game like this headed into the A10 and what we know is going to be tough challenge every night. The past few games we've been able to get out in front and really separate ourselves from the other team, but tonight we had to rely on making key stops and battling every possession to secure the win."
- VCU will open up their first A-10 conference slate on Wednesday, when they welcome perennial power Dayton to the Stu. The opening tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.