VCU 73, Alabama 54

Troy Daniels scored 16 points and Virginia Commonwealth blitzed
Alabama early with a 26-5 run, ruining former coach Anthony Grant’s
return to the Siegel Center with a 73-54 victory on Saturday.

Treveon Graham added 14 points and Melvin Johnson 12 for the
Rams (7-3), who improved to 6-2 in games against schools from the
six major power conferences on their floor. The Rams have also now
beaten at least one school from each of the power conferences since
Shaka Smart replaced Grant as coach four years ago.

Devonta Pollard led the Crimson Tide (6-3) with 13 points and
Levi Randolph had 10. Alabama committed 13 turnovers, one more than
its average for a whole game, by halftime and finished with 19
giveaways that led to 19 VCU points.

The Rams made their big run after Rodney Cooper’s two free
throws gave Alabama a 2-0 lead. Daniels and Graham scored eight
apiece in the push, which took more than 13 minutes. It helped
greatly that Alabama kept turning the ball over, and couldn’t
shoot. It’s first field goal came just 9:18 before halftime.

The Tide closed to within 11 twice early in the second half, the
last at 39-28 after Trevor Releford’s driving hoop with 16:04 to
play, and the sellout crowd grew quiet, fearful that the Rams’
tendency to get a big lead on a team with its frenetic pace, then
let up and let the opponent come back was surfacing.

It didn’t happen this time. Rob Brandenburg, who finished with
10 points, followed with a deep 3-pointer from the top of the key
for VCU, Jarred Guest hit a 15-footer after a turnover and the
momentum was quickly back on the Rams’ side.

Two free throws by Randolph pulled Alabama within 44-30, but
Johnson, a freshman, and light-scoring D.J. Haley scored
consecutive inside baskets for the Rams, Johnson drilled a
3-pointer from the right corner and Daniels made another 3, pushing
the lead back to 54-32 with just 13 minutes remaining.

After a three-point play for Releford, Johnson and Daniels again
made consecutive 3s for the Rams, pushing their lead to 60-35, and
as the crowd erupted in glee, Smart was able to get lightly used
big man David Hinton, the only holdover on the Rams’ roster from
Grant’s tenure, into the game.

Follow Hank on twitter at: