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VCU steamrolls Butler

The SportsXchange

RICHMOND, Va. -- In what might have been their only meeting as Atlantic 10 Conference foes, No. 25 Virginia Commonwealth ran roughshod over No. 21 Butler, 84-52, on Saturday at the Siegel Center.

Butler is reportedly one of the top targets to join the Big East's seven departing Catholic schools in a new league next season.

Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens wouldn't comment on national reports that have his team possibly leaving the A-10 after only one year in the conference. What he did talk about was his team's complete breakdown against VCU's full-court pressure defense.

"It's hard to operate against good teams. It's hard to operate against good athletes, and we can't simulate (the

Rams' pressure) necessarily in practice," Stevens said after his worst loss in six seasons at Butler. "Not many people can. I haven't seen a team that fast yet. That's the fastest team we've played against."

The Rams' defense -- nicknamed "Havoc" for what it creates for opponents -- completely flustered the Bulldogs, who had won their previous three games against top 25 teams this season.

Butler, which boasts victories over top-ranked Indiana and No. 2 Gonzaga this season, tied a season high with 23 turnovers and trailed by as many as 33 points in the second half.

"These guys are really good," Stevens said. "Nobody is coming in here today and winning. Now we didn't play well enough to even make it a game, so that's a whole other story, but nobody in the country is probably coming in here today and winning with this atmosphere with this amped up crowd and certainly the anticipation of the game."

Four Virginia Commonwealth players scored in double figures, led by senior guard Troy Daniels, who had 20 points and was 4-for-8 from 3-point range. Rams senior guard Darius Theus had eight points, nine assists and five steals.

"I wish we could play like we did tonight every night," Theus said. "What you saw tonight we're going to try to bring every night."

The Rams (23-6, 11-3 A-10), who finished with 17 steals and clinched one of the top four seeds for the Atlantic 10 tournament, are one-half game behind first-place Saint Louis in the standings with two regular-season games left.

The Bulldogs (22-7, 9-5), meanwhile, have lost two consecutive games for the first time this season and are tied for fourth place in the standings.

In a rematch of their 2011 Final Four meeting, Virginia Commonwealth and Butler were expected to provide a fast-paced and highly-competitive game on the Rams' home court. But the game got out of hand quickly.

The Rams forced nine turnovers in the first 12 minutes and led by double figures for the game's final 31:23.

"I think we sustained our defense pretty close to as well as we have all year long," VCU coach Shaka Smart said.

Butler showed life with a 7-0 run to start the second half, but Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic both scored five points during a 10-4 Virginia Commonwealth run that extended the lead to 55-32.

The Rams built the lead up to 80-47 on junior center

D.J. Haley's dunk with 3:54 remaining.

"I thought it would be a dogfight, which it was in spurts of the game," Daniels said. "Guys came to play. We were highly motivated going into the game. We had a little bit of adversity, but we still responded no matter what. I'm proud of the guys for that."

Notes: Daniels made his 100th 3-pointer of the season in the first half, becoming only the 15th player in Atlantic 10 history to reach the century mark. ... With 17 steals against the Bulldogs, the Rams increased their season total to an Atlantic 10-record 355 for the season. ... The Rams won for the first time in three meetings against the Bulldogs. ... Virginia Commonwealth is 2-0 against ranked opponents all-time at the Siegel Center. No. 17 Oklahoma lost 82-69 to the Rams in 2009 in the only other appearance by a ranked team at Siegel Center. ... The Rams are 23-0 this season when forcing 15 or more turnovers.
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