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.

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