Richmond-VCU Preview

The Associated Press

After sending a strong message to a new rival, Virginia Commonwealth may be equally motivated to avenge a loss to an old one.

The 21st-ranked Rams hope to remain in the hunt for the Atlantic 10 title Wednesday night when they host crosstown rival Richmond, which staged a dramatic comeback and won the first meeting in overtime.

VCU (23-6, 11-3) is coming off an 84-52 drubbing of then-No. 20 Butler, turning a much-anticipated rematch of a 2011 Final Four meeting into a rout.

The Bulldogs had beaten the Rams to reach the NCAA tournament final for the second straight year, but they didn't put up much of a fight against coach Shaka Smart's team last weekend. VCU's swarming defense forced Butler to match a season high with 23 turnovers.

"You can always see the pressure on film, but once you've got to deal with it in live play, it's kind of hard to deal with," said VCU point guard Darius Theus, who will play his final home game Wednesday along with fellow seniors Troy Daniels and David Hinton.

"It was pretty intense out there."

The Rams will want to bring that same energy against Richmond, given they are 23-0 when opponents have at least 15 turnovers and 0-6 otherwise.

The Spiders (17-12, 7-7) gave it away only 13 times in their 86-74 home win Jan. 24, ending VCU's 13-game win streak. Richmond rallied from a seven-point deficit in the final 42 seconds of regulation, tying the game on Darien Brothers' 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left and then dominating the extra session.

Brothers finished with 18 points and 5-foot-8 Spiders guard Kendall Anthony scored a game-high 26 off the bench.

"I'm sure that was a really exciting game to watch," Smart said that night. "Unfortunately that's not the word I would use to describe it for us."

VCU has won six straight at home against Richmond in a rivalry known as the Black and Blue Classic that dates back to 1976 but is a new addition to the A-10.

The Rams are trying to win at least a share of the regular-season title in their inaugural season in the league. Saint Louis, ranked 16th and visiting Xavier on Wednesday night, has a one-game lead over VCU with two games left for each team.

Daniels has been stepping up late in his collegiate career. The guard had 19 points in a Feb. 23 road win over the Musketeers before scoring a game-high 20 against Butler, hitting 9 of 21 from 3-point range in those two contests.

He was 1 of 5 at Richmond, finishing with six points as VCU shot 38.6 percent.

The Rams were ranked 19th for that game, but beating Top 25 foes is nothing new for the Spiders. They've won eight of their last 13 such games, although they've lost all three in opponents' arenas in that stretch and they're 3-9 on the road this season.

Richmond had won three straight overall before Saturday's 78-74 loss at Dayton.

Brothers, though, broke out for 19 points after averaging 9.3 in six February games while shooing 26.3 percent. He's scoring a team-high 14.9 per game overall.

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