VCU-Richmond Preview

The Associated Press

After allowing a season high for points in regulation, Virginia Commonwealth got back to its disruptive ways in its most recent victory.

The 19th-ranked Rams will try to maintain their trademark defensive pressure as they try for a 14th consecutive victory Thursday night at intracity rival Richmond, which has won 12 of 13 at home dating back to last season.

Facing the Spiders for the first time in the Atlantic 10 Conference, VCU has won seven of eight against its former Colonial Athletic Association rivals. Richmond, however, claimed a 72-60 victory in the prior meeting on their home floor on Dec. 11, 2010.

"One of the great things about the Richmond job is that we have an archrival in the city," Richmond coach Chris Mooney said. "And with the success that they've had and the success we've had, it elevates the game and makes it that much better."

VCU (16-3, 4-0) also looks keep pace with No. 9 Butler and Xavier atop the A-10 standings. The Bulldogs share the nation's second-longest winning streak with the Rams at 13 games, and the Musketeers also are unbeaten in conference play.

The Rams have won by an average of 21.8 points during their streak, but gave up a season-high 80 in regulation in a six-point overtime win over Saint Joseph's last Thursday.

VCU, which leads the nation in steals (12.9) and in turnovers created (21.2) per game, returned to form defensively in a 90-63 victory at Duquesne on Saturday. The Rams held the Dukes to 18 first-half points and 42.3 percent shooting for the game.

"I'm pleased with the way our guys played defensively, particularly in the first half," said 35-year-old coach Shaka Smart, who became the second-youngest coach to reach 100 wins. "Coming out of the Saint Joe's game, we gave up 80 points in regulation in that game and that was flat out too many."

They'll try to similarly attack the Spiders (12-7, 2-2), who could provide a tough test on their home floor. Richmond has averaged 76.5 points and shot 47.5 percent from the field - including 40.0 percent from 3-point range - in winning 10 of 11 there this season.

The Spiders are also taking care of the basketball, totaling just 16 turnovers in their last two games.

Richmond has won three of five, including a 81-61 rout over a 15-win Charlotte team on Saturday, since leading rebounder and second-leading scorer Derrick Williams went down with an ankle injury on Dec. 29.

Darien Brothers has helped carry the load, leading the team in scoring (16.2) and ranking near the top of the nation in 3-point percentage (50.9) after scoring a career-high 39 against the 49ers.

The senior guard made 10 of 14 from the field - including a school record-tying 8 of 11 from beyond the arc. It was the most points by a Richmond player since Bob McCurdy had 54 in 1976.

Richmond leads the A-10 in 3-point percentage (38.0) and ranks second in the league in 3s per game (8.3) behind only the Rams (8.7).

VCU guards Rob Brandenburg and Treveon Graham will try to carry over their hot shooting after combining for 42 points and 10-of-17 shooting from 3-point range against Duquesne.

Brandenburg had 14 points as the Rams won their sixth straight at home over Richmond with a 73-51 victory last season.

The Rams, who rank 10th in the nation in scoring (79.3 per game), have averaged 85.6 points over their last eight games and reached 90 seven times.

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