The coach of Virginia Commonwealth, who won his 100th game on Saturday night, wanted to see some lock-down defense from his players against Duquesne after the Rams yielded 86 points in escaping with a six-point overtime victory against St. Joseph's in their previous game. He certainly got what he wanted. Just two years removed from a Final Four appearance, Atlantic 10 newcomer VCU quickly is making opponents a believer, remaining unbeaten in four conference games by demolishing Duquesne, 90-63. "Our guys did a nice job defensively in the first half," Smart said. "That was a focus of this team coming out of the St. Joe's game. We gave up way too many points." Against Duquesne, the Rams used an explosive 26-2 first-half run to roll to a 44-18 halftime lead. Rob Brandenberg scored 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting and Traveon Graham added 20 on 7-of-14 shooting for VCU (16-3, 4-0), which extended its road winning streak to 13. The Rams entered the game tied with Butler for the second-longest active streak in Division I behind Kansas' 15. The victory was the 100th under Smart, who became the 30th-fastest to reach the mark in college basketball history and just the 12th in his first four seasons. "It's not just my 100th win," said Smart, in his fourth season as a head coach, all at VCU. "It's been (the other assistants') wins, too. We've gotten better since that first season. I just want to win a few more." VCU used its back-breaking run to quickly break open the game midway through the first half after leading just 13-12. Duquesne scored just one field goal during a span of 11 minutes, 8 seconds, and fell behind at halftime by 26 points. When the lead reached 35 (62-27), Smart began to empty his bench for a time in the second half, allowing Duquesne to cut into the lead. But, after taking control, the Rams never allowed the deficit to drop below 27, which represented the margin of victory. "We just try to play our style of basketball. We push the ball no matter what's going on," Brandenberg said. "Hopefully, we can stretch it out and get a nice lead." Juvonite Reddic also scored in double figures for VCU with 16 points. A pair of freshmen led Duquesne (7-11, 0-4) in scoring with Derrick Colter getting 15 points and Quevyn Winters adding 12. The Dukes, who are rebuilding in coach Jim Ferry's first season, lost their sixth game in a row. "I don't know what to say. That's just a far-superior team than us in every aspect," Ferry said of VCU. "They're better than the 22nd-best team in the country. We don't have the pieces yet to compete at their level." It was the first meeting between Duquesne and VCU, which also hasn't yet faced three other A-10 schools: Fordham, Massachusetts and Temple. In the first half, Graham scored 17 points and Brandenberg had 11 as VCU shot 48.6 percent (17-for-35). Overall, the Rams were 36 for 72 (50 percent), including 12 for 31 (38.7) from 3-point range. They held Duquesne to 42.3 percent overall (22 for 52), but just 31 percent (9 for 29) in the first half. Smart said VCU's quick start in its first season in the A-10 is impressive after the Rams made the move from the Colonial Athletic Association. "There's good coaches in both leagues, but there's better players in this league," he said of the A-10. "We've done a good job, for the most part, of scoring and rebounding and playing defense. We just want to continue to build." NOTES: VCU was leading Division I in steals per game with an average of 13.1 entering the game. The Rams registered 10 against Duquesne. ... Duquesne is 3-33 all-time against nationally ranked A-10 teams, last winning at home against No. 9 Xavier in 2008. ... VCU visits crosstown rival Richmond on Thursday, while Duquesne entertains Saint Louis on Wednesday.
- Sports & Recreation
- Shaka Smart